Safety Rules for spearfishing
Before leaving the shore decide where you are heading, make a dive plan and estimate the weather and the sea conditions
The weather and the sea conditions can change rapidly and it can have a dramatic effect on your diving trip. You should always consider wind, fog, visibility, water temperature, waves, current, swell, distance from the shore, surface traffic, time of the sunset, etc. to be able to make the decision of canceling the trip if necessary
Surface Conditions can effect on the behavior of surface traffic. Low angle sun and a choppy sea can make a diver on the surface nearly invisible and extra care must be taken
You should always have a plan on what to do in the event of an emergency
You should always have a charged cellular phone or a radio transmitter on board to be able to contact other people or the local coast guard in case of an emergency
Never spearfish alone and select your partner
It is highly recommended always to dive together with a partner
Two divers are not usually evenly matched in skills and abilities, you have to know your own limits and your partners capabilities and dive accordingly
Plan the route together with your partner before entering the water and dont change your plans without discussing it first with him
Decide who will be leading first, and who will be following
Decide where and for how long you will be hunting
You should always be able to quit the diving session before the planned duration if necessary. A tired, injured or otherwise compromised hunter puts both divers at risk
When hunting is taking place in deep waters, it is highly recommended that you dive in turns and watch your partner
The diver on the surface should maintain a constant 360-degree scan for possible fast boats and such, he should also maintain a visual contact to the diver below when ever possible
When the hunter begins his ascent after a dive, the partner on the surface should watch for any possible signs of distress
If the ascending diver appears to be in distress, or has been down for an unusually long time, the diver on the surface should dive down to intercept the diver and accompany him safely to the surface
Having to wait while your partner is doing his hunting helps you to keep a good surface interval for proper rest and recovery before your next dive
When hunting is taking place in shallow waters with poor visibility, you might consider diving separately from your partner maintaining a safety distance at all times
When diving separately you must understand that there is nobody helping you if you get into trouble underwater. Bottom time should be reduced and extreme carefulness should be followed on every aspect on safety.
On the surface, you should look around for possible approaching threats. You should also know at all times where your partner is hunting. Take a visual contact to your partner on the surface when ever possible to check and signal that everything is in order. Do not dive before you have located your partner!
You should always have a diving plan, which tells you the direction your partner is going to move. You should also know the length of your partners line attached to his buoy to be able to maintain a proper safety distance, (always at least 30 m). You should always move away from your partner during the dive while hunting separately!
Never spearfish without a line attached to an appropriate buoy with a flag
The buoy should be bright orange or red to be easily visible to the surface traffic
The buoy should be equipped with a visible "diver down" flag
The buoy should be large enough so that it will hold a diver on the surface if problems emerge
The buoy should give the diver a safe place to rest and recover if necessary
The length of the line should be adjusted right. The closer you are to your buoy the better chance you have to avoid accidents with the surface traffic. Extra length of the line gets tangled more easily, and makes it more difficult for the hunters to locate each other
When hunting in open water, you should always have a partner on the surface watching after the surface traffic
It is highly recommended to dive close to the shore or a rock pointing out from the water when ever possible. If you hear sounds of a closing fast boat, always surface towards the shallower water
If you for some reason get surprised by a bothering sound of a closing fast boat while hunting in open water, you might consider waiting in the bottom for the boat to pass by. If you have already been there for a while, do not jeopardize yourself with staying down for too long. It is always better to come up with full lungs, with the possibility to immediately dive back down, if necessary. In this kind of situation always surface as close to your buoy as possible
The line serves as safety. A diver who loses a fin or has a leg cramp can use it for help pulling himself up to the surface
In the worst case your partner will be able to find you and pull you up from the depths with help of your line attached to your weight belt, even in the worst visibility
If your line gets stuck in the rocks or into the plants underwater dont hesitate to drop your weight belt. You will always find it later by following the line attached to your buoy on the surface
You can use the buoy also for carrying useful gear and drinking water with you
Speargun is a deadly weapon; you must always maintain absolute caution on safety matters when handling it
Keep your speargun always pointed clearly away from your partner in every situation
Never swim behind your partner who is carrying a speargun. When swimming long distances your arm holding a spergun gets tired and you might let it go down on your side. In this position your speargun points right behind you, making the area very dangerous to your partner.
Always maintain a proper safety distance to your partner while moving together on the surface
You must always be absolutely sure that there is no one diving inside the range of your speargun before pulling the trigger. If you have any doubt, don't shoot!
Shoot only when the fish is clear from the rocks and stones. If the obstacles are close to you the shaft can bounce back from the bottom with unexpected force and cause serious damage to you
You should only load your speargun under water
You should never lift a loaded speargun out from the water
When swimming long distances you should always unload your speargun
If the line of your speargun shaft gets tangled, you are in a danger or in distress, dont hesitate to let go of your gun!
Dont underestimate the risk of shallow-water blackout. It is probably the most serious threat for the safety of a spearfisher
Shallow-water blackout (SWB) is the sudden loss of consciousness caused by oxygen starvation. Unconsciousness strikes most commonly within five meters of the surface, where expanding, oxygen-hungry lungs suck oxygen from the divers blood. The unconscious diver is a highly potential drowning victim.
Do not hyperventilate. Hyperventilation lowers the carbon dioxide level in your body outsmarting the brain's breathing center. It is high levels of carbon dioxide, not low levels of oxygen, that stimulate the need to breathe. Hyperventilating can lead into a situation where your body tissues will not produce enough carbon dioxide to stimulate your breathing center to warn you even though your body would already be seriously short of oxygen
Never exhale forcefully under water or on surfacing. On ascent it causes loss of buoyancy and requires more effort on the surfacing which can lead to SWB. With any dramatic fall in the pressure in the lungs the remaining reserve of oxygen in the blood will go to the lung and not the brain hence causing SWB.
On the returning to the surface after an extreme dive, you should always take your snorkel out of your mouth. A blast clearing of the snorkel nearly invariably leads to SWB if a diver has been close to his maximum
Avoid endurance dives. If you must make a long or deep dive, make sure you have a partner standing by on the surface
Preserve correct intervals between the dives to allow gas balances in your body to return to normal. Be aware of the danger of multiple deep dives, it can severely stress your system and the build up of lactic acid can be dangerous to your following dives
Understand that any strenuous exercise will limit your bottom time dramatically. When you have to exercise during the dive, head for the surface much sooner than usual
Learn to avoid the dangerous situation where your mind starts to focus only on a catch. If this should ever happen you must be ready to drop your speargun and your weight belt, and head to the surface immediately maintaining all the safety procedures while surfacing
Always treat your weight belt and your speargun as a disposable items; if in doubt, do not hesitate, drop them
Do not increase your speed on the last part of the ascent. Economy of movement is essential to conserve oxygen and keep the pulse rate low. Never look up on ascent, neck extension will affect necessary blood flow to the brain and it is also contrary to a hydrodynamic position
Always be correctly weighted. It is dangerous to be over weighted. This can cause some equalization problems on descent and unnecessary using of energy on ascent. A good rule of thumb is to adjust your weight belt so that you will float at 5 meters. If SWB for some reason ever hits you and you are correctly weighted, there is a chance that you will float to the surface where it is much easier for your partner to try to help you.
Learn the basics of CPR and think about adapting them to your diving environment, whether diving from the boat or far away from the shore
Always spearfish well inside your capabilities! A spearfisher should always monitor himself and be aware of his daily limitations caused by his present physical condition and mental state
A spearfisher is not a super athlete every day or on every dive. It is important to understand that every individual has his day-to-day limits that should be followed.
If you want to test your limits or try to go beyond your limits, you will for sure end up with problems or even death if the testing is done all by yourself. Without proper freediving safety preparations and experienced people looking after you during your attempt you are simply playing with your life. Never test your boundaries alone or while spearfishing!
Never dive when you are tired or cold. Cold, tiredness, alcohol and drugs all impair judgment and breath-hold ability and predispose a diver to SWB. The first symptoms of hypothermia, tiredness and impaired judgment, connected together with lactic acid build up in you body can be a deadly combination. As soon as you feel you are cold your breath-hold ability has already been compromised and you should stop diving and get out from the water. Do not underestimate cold!
Never dive when you are sick. If you have fever or your physical state is otherwise weakened, all kind of exercising is always a serious threat to your heart. Congestion caused for example by flu obviously leads to equalization difficulties, which can cause severe pain in the sinuses and great danger of reversed ear. (Reversed ear is caused by Eustachian Tube blocking; the pressure inside the middle ear grows on the ascent and can burst your eardrum.)
Never expose the flexibility of your eardrum. A burst eardrum in the depths causing extreme vertigo, pain and nausea is a serious risk for your life! Equalize on descent only, well before you start to feel pain in your eardrums. Never force equalization. Never continue after a failed equalization - abort the dive!
It is recommended not to spearfish within 4 hrs of a full meal or two hours after a light snack. A large volume of blood that could be carrying oxygen to the brain is being diverted to the digestive system which will limit your bottom time
You should always drink enough while you are spearfishing. Dehydration, which is caused for example by sweating, greater production of urine, the expelling of water during ventilation and the chemical exchanges needed for energy production, vastly increases the risk of SWB, muscle cramps and equalization problems
This sport of leisures or competition is not without risk because we evolve in a environment known as "hostile" where the errors are not allowed, even fatal. Many are the accidents due to failure to comply with the elementary rules of safety, as I will give you some councils as I recommend to follow.
To always trail with oneself a rope with buoy or board, provided with the diving flag, which will announce your presence to the boats and yachtmen. To always fish in doubles, that on the surface supervising his comrade who is down in order to intervene in the event of faintness or incident. To have on oneself a blade to slice cords or lines which could cling to you and to prevent you from regaining surface.
Not to over-estimate its forces and to have enough resources to regain the shore or its boat. On this subject, consume water and energy food products with regular intervals: they will avoid you cramps, overtiredness and even hypoglycemia.
A bad balancing of eardrums can involve irreversible lesions. If during the apnea, an ear does not pass, not to hesitate to stop the shooting party, because its continuation will expose the hunter at the risk of tympanic tear or a traumatism of the inner ear.
For those who fish beyond the 22 yards of depth, attention to exaggerated hyperventilations, the repeated apnea and the efforts made at the seabed, which, combined, can cause a fainting fit, and of this fact death by drowning.
THE BALANCING OF THE EAR DRUMS
The apneist, as soon as it starts the descent, must prepare to balance his eardrums.
The ear :
With the free air, the eardrum receives on its external face a pressure equal to that which it receives on its internal face. The cavity of the middle ear, isolated from outside by the eardrum, emerges by the Eustachian tube inside the nasal passage.
When the body penetrates in water, it is subjected to a pressure which increases by one kilogramme every ten meters. The Eustachian tube, which are a channel anatomically narrow, long, and subjected to multiple attacks like the cold, is not permeable any more with the air, and the inner ears are not any more in communication with the nasal passages.
The pressure which is exerted on the eardrum, external side, is higher than that which is exerted on its internal face. Consequence : the eardrum will become deformed and become painful. To make disappear the pain, and better still, to prevent it, it is necessary " to balance " the pressure in the inner ear. For that, it is necessary to free the Eustachian tube. This operation can take place in two manners.
To plate the tongue against the palate. To hold one's nose between thumb and index by the intermediary of embossings of the mask. To send air of the lungs towards the nose as for blow one's nose. A definitely perceptible catch occurs : the air penetrates in the inner ear and the eardrum picks up its initial shape.
Voluntary gaping passage :
It remains the primacy of some divers privileged by a particular anatomical form their Eustachian tubes. The swallowing or the opening of the jaws allows balancing. During the climb up, the air contained in the cavities will dilate and no average credit will allow its aspiration. Only the swallowing or the opening of the jaws could be used.
It will be advisable to stop the diving as soon as an ear does not pass because its continuation exposes to risk of tympanic tear or a traumatism of the inner ear. In front of similar incident, to blow one's nose, to wash the nose while making pass water if possible from the throat. To spray with a vasoconstrictor. In the event of persistent blocking, to stop the spearfishing party. In front of the presence of an impression of blocked ear, whistles or giddinesses, a fast medical consultation will be necessary.
The apnea, it is the voluntary stop (or not) of breathing. The preparation with the apnea consists in exchanging a part of the carbon dioxide contained in each red cell of blood, by an equal quantity of oxygen. This exchange taking place in the lungs, the method will thus consist in ventilating to the maximum the air of the lungs.
Hyperventilation is practised with the body lengthened on water and the dangling arms. All the relaxed muscles, it is necessary to be let float like a fish float. To expire completely with the help of the arms to compress the chest, and then to breathe deeply by largely opening the arms on both sides body. To expire again slowly and completely. To breathe deeply. To repeat this operation 4 or 5 times. To make a return to a calm state by 2 or 3 normal exhalations and inspirations ; to empty the lungs again completely, to fill them to the maximum and to start the descent.
During the clim up, the hunter looks to the depths of sea, the chin almost on the chest, the slightly arched shoulders, in most total relaxation. When it bursts surface, it exhales to drive out the water of the tuba and takes again its breathing.
Time between 2 apnea will be sufficiently long to allow the brain and the body to proceed to a physicochemical rebalancing.
O2 consumption and production of CO2 :
The oxygen uptake and the production of carbon dioxide are variable according to the type of fishing, the depth to be reached, the efforts made in the depth, the fight against the cold, the emotions...
Tolerance of the brain to the O2 and CO2 variations :
The bulbar respiratory centers are sensitive to the rise in carbon dioxide and, with a less degree, the fall of oxygen. This tolerance will be improved by the training which will make it possible to move back the recovery of the respiratory reflex.
To faint is not very serious, but in action of spearfishing, it can take dramatic forms whose fatal outcome could be the death.
What to make to avoid it?
- to keep always in mind that can arrive to you;
- not to alone drive out deep;
- not to lose sight of its team-member ; to ensure of its presence before diving;
- to have a ballasting adapted to the depth so the buoyancy is positive on more half of the way;
- on the surfaces, to prepare each diving sufficiently;
- to save its oxygen uptake by limiting work in the depths of sea;
- to go up in flexibility, with calms without looking at surface;
- not to fish tired (after a travel, for example) and to stop the sparfishing party since the observation of signs of tiredness (weariness, legs heavy).
Known signs preceding the fainting fit :
Giddinesses. Tinglings. Nauseas. Heavy legs. Spasms ; jumpings of a member ; convulsions. Sudden feeling of wellbeing.
Intervention on fainted in water :
To recover or go up the victim. To release its belt, but to preserve yours. The rescuer, in vertical swimming, place the nape of the neck of the victim on its shoulder. To remove his mask and his tuba. To strike 4 or 5 times the thorax of the subject with the palm of the hand, make it possible this one to regain consciousness. If such were not the case, not panic : to call help.
To look at the pupils :
- normal pupils (the heart always beats) : to proceed to the mouth with mouth. Always in vertical swimming, to place the subject extended on the back. To maintain with the arm right under its shoulders; the left hand grips the nose while maintaining the head in hyperextension. To open his mouth and to check that nothing blocks it (sometimes barbs of the tuba were cut in a reflex of contraction of the jaw). To put your tuba in the mouth of the subject. To insufflate vigorously and calmly. If ventilation is good, the subject can find its breathing and its knowledge at the end of 5 or 6 blowings. While carrying out these manoeuvrings, the rescuer will calmly try hard to regain the coast or the boat.
- dilated pupils (the heart ceased beating) : it is imperatively necessary to proceed to a cardiac massage, alternate with the mouth with mouth. Always in vertical swimming, the rescuer will place himself behind the subject, takes it in one's arms, the right hand holding his left wrist, which, closed fist, will be placed between the pectoral muscles of the victim. In this position, to compress 5 to 6 times the thorax. Put your tuba in the mouth of the subject and insufflate 2 to 3 times. To take again compressions and blowings. To check the dilation of the pupils, which their return to the normal, will mark the resumption of the beats of the heart.
Shallow Water Black-Out Safety:
Without doubt the greatest risk facing spearfisherman is shallow water blackout. Spearfishing Magazine has reported that 8,000 drownings occur each year in the United States, and 81% of these deaths occurred in males between the ages of 14 and 32.
Shallow water blackout is a physiological phenomenon that occurs when an ascending divers lungs expand, creating a vacuum that sucks the remaining oxygen out of his blood stream causing the diver to black-out. This usually means the diver will start to sink, and if not assisted, will likely drown.
Know your limits and dont push them. Enjoyable diving is safe diving.
Always dive with a dive partner and practice safe "one-up, one-down" diving protocol.
Always ensure that you are properly weighted and are positively buoyant at depths shallower than 15 ft. In this way, if you black out, you increase the chances of bobbing to the surface and being revived as the fresh air reaches your face.
If you are concerned that you have exceeded your bottom-time, release your belt buckle, holding the free end in your hand as you ascend. If you black out there is a reasonable chance you will release it and this will help you bob to the surface.
There are very few warning signs of SWB, which is what makes them dangerous. However, indicators that can occur are headaches from high CO2 levels, uncontrollable swallowing, or tunnel vision. If you have experienced any of these symptoms while diving, you were seconds away from a problem.
Don't train alone or do static breathholds in swimming pools. A surprisingly high percentage of freediving fatalities take place in swimming pools. Technically this is not a SWB, but the result is equally dangerous, perhaps more so.
When deep diving, we recommend that you remove your snorkel prior to breathing up on the surface. On returning to the surface blast clearing of the snorkel can lead to a SWB if a diver has been very close to his maximum. Moreover, retention of the snorkel at depth complicates equalisation and when diaphragm contractions begin can lead to the unwanted inhalation of water.
Avoid exhaling under water or forcefully exhaling on surfacing. Exhalation on descent has been known to cause problems with equalisation. On ascent it can cause dramatic loss of buoyancy so more effort will be required on the ascent which can contribute to SWB. One must remember, that with any dramatic fall in the pressure in the lungs the remaining reserve of oxygen in the blood will go to the lungs and not the brain, which could be another contributing SWB factor.
Don't Hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is breathing at a rate of more than 15 deep breaths per minute. Hyperventialiation predisposes a diver to begin the descent in tension and with a higher pulse rate and decreased levels of CO2. This improper balance of O2 and CO2 can prolong the "easy phase" on the decent at the expense of the "struggle phase" on ascent and could lead to a SWB. In order to properly ventilate, and achieve sensible O2 saturation levels and a slow pulse rate, we recommend a few slow, deep, strong ventilations combined with relaxation and concentration.
Avoid rapidly turning around at your target depth. A dramatic turn around at the end of a long descent can lead to "deep water blackout." A significant amount of blood has moved into the head on the decent with the result that a rapid turn around can result in vertigo. This is particularly true of very deep dives where blood shift into the lungs is already a significant factor.
Avoiding looking directly up at the surface on ascent. As you get tired, tension does build up in your neck. Neck extension can affect necessary blood flow to the brain and increase pressure in the area of the baro-receptors in the neck sending the wrong message to the central nervous system which may increase the pulse rate, so try and consciously relax the muscles in your shoulders and neck.
Try avoiding increasing your pace on the last part of the ascent. This is where you are most vulnerable, where lactic acid-build up might be present, and where economy of movement is essential to conserve O2 and keep the pulse rate stable. Try remained focused on calm, steady economy of motion.
Blowing on an unconscious divers eyes may stimulate the body�s impulse to breath.
Keep up to date with medical aid training, refresh your understanding from time to time, know how to administer CPR, mouth to mouth, and mouth to snorkel resuscitation.
If you are diving with a diver that has suffered a shallow water blackout always ensure that diver visits a hospital as soon as he gets on-shore. Often a near drowning victim may have let salt water into their lungs, and the symptoms only appear hours after the event. The effects of salt water on the lungs are serious.
Fitness & Stamina
Perhaps one of the greatest dangers that spearos face are themselves. In freediving the diver exposes himself to a foreign environment, where the water is often cold, where strong currents and surf are prevalent, and the diver pushes himself to extreme depths in search of quarry. Overestimating ones ability in these circumstances is an enormous risk and a very real danger.
Stay in shape and be honest about your conditioning. You may have been able to easily hunt at 90 ft in the past, but this may have changed, and you dont want to discover your overconfidence at a dangerous depth.
Use a dive computer, particularly one that shows depth and bottom time. In good viz, and in exciting conditions, it is easy to get carried away and dive deeper than you were intending to or can handle. With a computer you will always be aware of your bottom time.
We recommend that you be strict and disciplined and mentally plan your dive time at the surface. Dont extend your bottom-time longer than you had planned, and DO NOT swim after fish on your way to the surface. This is the dive segment where you are at your most vulnerable.
Dont underestimate how exhausting diving is. Studies reveal that active freediving burns more than 1000 calories / hr, (akin to woodchopping) so replace lost energy by rehydrating and eating sensibly.
Be aware that any activity rapidly burns oxygen. If you are fighting a fish towards the surface, trying to free a spear, retrieving lost weight belts or wrestling holed up fish, you may lose anywhere from 20-50% of your normal bottom time.
Surf & Currents
The ocean is a diverse and complex environment where the spearfishmen operates in a completely alien environment. As the spearfisherman gazes down on a boiling ball of sharks attacking a wounded fish, a majestic Marlin feeding, a shoal of tuna gliding through the depths, or a school of circling dolphins, the diver immediately understands that he is witnessing mother nature as close as is possible. And shortly thereafter should realize that the sea is big, and that he is small.
Big surf and strong currents present several potential hazards to divers:
Avoid launching craft and always ensure that you have a clearly visible float that makes others aware of your position.
Avoid shorediving when the surf is big. Chances are that it will get even bigger while diving, making the dive to the shore that much more challenging particularly now that you are tired, possibly towing fish, and potentially having to come in at a location you would prefer not to.
When shorediving, select a point of entry that is sheltered from incoming waves such as a protected bay. Remember this may not be the point you get out at.
Memorize the topography of the coastline and plan your dive beforehand. Such that you have a variety of accessible exit points. Be aware that currents may wash you in either direction of your point of entry, plan for suitable points of exits in both directions, and remember that the surf could build quickly, and that you may have to beach in rougher surf than you swum out into.
Never try to fight a rip current. In most cases, rip currents are relatively narrow. Rather swim at an angle with the current, parallel to the beach, and you should swim out of it in this way.
Most importantly never panic. Stay cool. Stay calm, and ensure that you stay together with your diving partner.