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Living in Trinidad, it’s no surprise that fishing is one of the favourite pastimes of our island’s menfolk – there’s no better feeling than getting out on the ocean with your boys, leaving the naggers behind, pulling out a bottle of 1919 and embarking on an epic hunting adventure. But as lovely as it is that so many of us are hooked (pun intended) on fishing, be it for the great fresh king fish dinner you’ll have afterwards or just the great excuse for having a drunken guys’ day out, the reality is that if it’s not done right, fishing can actually be pretty damaging to the environment.

Spearfishing has recently gotten some great media coverage as one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable fishing methods. So we managed to pin down one of the Caribbean’s—and possibly the world’s—most foremost spearfishers (this is possibly a slight exaggeration), Jonathan Mackenzie to find out his tips for fishing sustainably and safely tackling what he describes as ‘the dark and watery underworld’. Below are his expert tips and insight in his own words as told to Upful’s Copy Queen, Caroline de Verteuil:

Safety first

  • This might seem obvious, but before you go out to spearfish, make sure you have a good gun. This will prevent malfunctions that could either lose you a prime target or cause injury to you or any other spearfishers you’re with.
  • If you’re going out on your own, remember that safety comes first. This means choosing your fishing spots carefully and not going anywhere that could be potentially dangerous. No fish is worth risking your safety or life over.
  • When you’re spearfishing you’re the alien; you’re in the fishes’ element, not yours, and you’re no longer at the top of the food chain. So respect the sea, play by its rules or else you won’t last too long out there.

The right attitude

  • Go out there to have fun. The main thing is to enjoy what you’re doing. Don’t stress or put yourself under pressure if you’re not catching 200 lb fish. Some days you won’t catch shit, other days you’ll do great. The important thing is to enjoy the process.
  • Be patient. It’s like everything else in life – you have to stay calm, be patient and most of the time what you’re seeking will come to you. A lot of the times when you’re underneath there, once you’re calm and patient, Mother Nature will just give you a fish out of nowhere.
  • Enjoy that primal, instinctive feeling: there’s one man, one fish, one shot. Savour the feeling of doing what man has done since the beginning of time – hunting.

How to fish sustainably

Conservation is critical. If you’re like me, then you want future generations to be able to enjoy the sea the same way we do today. That starts with having respect for the sea and for fish. Spearfishing is the purest, most sustainable form of fishing because it’s so selective. You’re not throwing a line in there and waiting to see what you get – possibly killing young or pregnant fish in the process, or even just killing a bunch of fish that you can’t eat.

Here’s some of the steps I take to fish as sustainably as possible:

  • Never shoot smaller or baby fish – you have to protect the babies and give them a chance to breed.
  • Obviously don’t ever kill turtles; some jackass fishermen will offer you big money to do this, but if you have any kind of sense or conscience, tell them to ride a shot.
  • Don’t shoot any and everything; I just shoot red fish and grouper. You have to be selective with the size and species. So I would never shoot angel fish, for example, because they’re a protected species even though ignorant people still kill them.
  • Don’t fish with nets or fish traps.

One final ‘upful’ note

As Upful is all about positivity, I have a positive note to add: sea turtles are making a very strong comeback. Every time I dive, I see at least 10 turtles, from big ones to little ones. So there is a definite, notable difference that sea turtles are coming back; there are also a lot more porpoises around as well. So all yuh could feel good about that one – a little ‘upful’ nugget to brighten up your day.