Sunday 7 March 2010

Great Barrier Reef weekend fishing trip turns nasty

A Saturday fishing expedition for six young males turned to horror around 2:30pm yesterday, following an incident with a spear fishing device.
A male in his mid-20's pierced a meter long deep sea fishing spear through his leg, whilst loading his spear gun on the back deck of their boat. It's a practice that is not allowed and should only be carried out in water, not on a boat, as water provides a natural resistance.
Rescue crew cut off the protruding spear upon arrival at the Yorkeys Knob Marina, however the young man, believed to be in his late-20's, was conscious as he was transferred into the ambulance and onto Cairns Base Hospital late yesterday afternoon.
Spearguns are often pneumatic-powered, and fire with enormous velocity. A number of fatalities have occurred from misuse of loading, almost all out of water. In Australia only recreational spearfishing and breath-hold free diving is allowed when spearfishing, however it is illegal to spear fish in the Great Barrier Reef's protected zones. It is unclear if the Cairns fishermen were in a illegal area.
Although limited spearfishing is allowed in general use, habitat protection and conservation park zones on the Great Barrier Reef, the Marine Park Authority disallows the use of powerhead, firearm, lights or underwater breathing apparatus (other than a snorkel), and insists a permit is obtained first.
In September last year, Brett Clarke, a Melbourne fisherman was shot in the back from a fishing spear. Medics said it came within millimetres of his heart, which would have killed him.
"It went in up through my ribs, up into my lungs, on the left-hand side there, and the nurses say I must have someone looking out for me upstairs," Brett Clarke told the ABC. It penetrated his internal organs and into his lung and, like the case in Cairns this weekend, was conscious at the time. Clarke required a chest tube to drain air that was accumulating in his lung, making it difficult to breathe.
The Australian Underwater Federation advocates "safe, sustainable, selective, spearfishing." They stipulate in their code of conduct and safety rules that a spear gun should never be loaded or carried out of water, and spear tips should be covered when not in use. They also state that spear users should not be under the influence of anything that could impair senses or judgment.
A local fisherman told CairnsBlog says he has ethical issues with spear fishing and says it is not looked up to by many who respect good fishing practices on the Great Barrier Reef.
"A Coral Trout may hide deliberately in a hole below the coral on the Reef, and feed only when it wants, however a spear corners the fish and traps it," Chris Matthews said today. "It's cheating really."
Another incident occurred early last year off the coast of Nambour when a 25-year-old speared himself in the groin area, piercing his inside upper thigh, just millimetres from his genitals.
The latest Far North Queensland incident occurred on the way out on the Great Barrier Reef, and the boat returned to the Yorkeys Knob marina just before 4pm to a waiting convoy of ambulance and rescue crew.
Senior Constable Anthony Kirkham who attended the incident, couldn't be contacted today, however it is understood that the six crew were in their 20's. It's thought that alcohol could have been a factor in the incident. When they arrived back on shore, onlookers said they were not wearing life jackets.
UPDATE: The young Smithfield man was loading his spear gun by pushing it against the lead weight on his weight belt when it slipped and shot him in the stomach.
Here's an Australian spear fisherman in action...


Simon F said...

Great report Michael.

Just read this in the Cairns Post this morning (like the Ergo one to - so you are beating them these days!!). However the Post reported that the spear went through the guy's stomach.

I was at the Boat Club and the club manager was down at the scence said it was through his leg.

Who's right?

livo said...

Yeah thats pretty bad one on the news recently they showed an xray and the guy had had been shot straight through the head and survived missed all the major arteries though.

livo said...

yeah thats pretty bad there was a news report recently where a guy was shot with a spear gun through the head missed all major arteries and survived