What is IFSUA?
IFSUA is the acronym in English of the International Forum for Sustainable Underwater Activities. It is a non-profit organization created to defend and promote responsible underwater activities. Currently the scope of work of IFSUA is the EU, the Mediterranean and the European Atlantic.
IFSUA exists because its members are aware that many of the rules that in some way or another affect underwater activities have their genesis in international policies (Common Fisheries Policy, Habitats Directive, Natura 2000 Network…). International organizations allow the participation of stakeholders in the creation of the regulations and, until the creation of IFSUA, there were representatives of professional fisheries, angling, science, environmental entities… but nobody represented underwater activities. For 6 years this is no longer the case and we are the representative body of underwater activities in the EU.
On the other hand, IFSUA has other objectives: the promotion of a responsible practice of underwater activities and the creation of links with science to improve marine knowledge through citizen science.
When was it born?
IFSUA was born at the beginning of 2012, when two brands (CRESSI and OMERSUB), together with two national federations (FEDAS and FIPSAS), created the organization. Since then, each year we have been growing up to more than 30 current member organizations.
Which is IFSUA’s composition?
The composition of IFSUA is very interesting. In the same organization, national and regional federations of underwater activities from different EU countries (France, Spain and Italy), many of the main world industries, retailers, clubs and associations are united. That is to say, we have together representatives and brands of the sector that, in other areas, are competing between them! Something that a priori would seem impossible has been achieved in IFSUA.
What did you do up to now?
As we have said, IFSUA represents and works for the whole community of underwater activities, but taking into account that this interview is for a platform dedicated to spearfishing, we will focus on giving you some examples of actions related to this activity.
IFSUA has been chairing, for three years, the MEDAC Working Group on Recreational fisheries, an advisory council that advises the European Commission on fisheries matters.
IFSUA is also a permanent member of the ICES Working Group on Recreational Fisheries Surveys (WGRFS). In fact, we are the only non-scientific organization present in that working group.
IFSUA, together with one of its members (APS of Barcelona) and Dr. Valerio Sbragaglia (creator of this website), organized in 2016 a meeting between scientists, administration, environmental organizations and professional fishermen from which the Charter of Barcelona came out, a proposal for the spearfishing of the future that is published in the scientific journal Sciencia Marina, but you can also find a summary here.
We are in permanent contact with different national and international administrations to defend an effective and non-discriminatory management of recreational fisheries.
IFSUA has filed several appeals before the courts defending the rights of spearfishers. The last was presented a few days ago nothing more and nothing less than before the Court of Justice of the European Union for the ban of sea bass to spearfishers in the French Atlantic and the English Channel. Nobody had ever done anything like it.
IFSUA is also collaborating in various volunteering projects with science. Undoubtedly, the most interesting of these is the Seawatchers platform. In this citizen science portal, sea lovers register their observations on aspects that are affecting our seas, such as invasive species, marine debris, jellyfish invasions, fish… These data are validated by scientific experts in the field and used to advance research in favor of healthier marine ecosystems.
How do you see the future of spearfishing?
I do not want to fool anyone; the future of spearfishing will not be easy. It will depend on various factors.
In the first place, we need the administration and the managers to stop treating us as criminals that cause the extermination of the coastal species with which only the prohibition is valid. They need to understand that spearfishers, as they can see the eventual prey, allows them to decide whether or not trying to capture them. That is, it can be as selective as you want. This offers a lot of tools for effective management.
On the other hand, the new spearfishers need to understand that marine resources are, in general (and in the Mediterranean in particular), in a very bad state. This means that, as a precaution, we may have to apply a certain self-regulation. Especially in those contexts in which the management of the activity is poor or nonexistent.
Finally, we must educate the new generations of spearfishermen. To do this, communication and information exchange platforms need to be established between scientists and fishermen, as you do on this website. Also, the role of organizations like IFSUA is fundamental. In fact, on our website you can find a whole series of tips for a responsible practice of spearfishing.
Finally, I would recommend everyone interested in this topic to read the Charter of Barcelona, which can be found in the original version published in the scientific journal Marine Science or in its summarized version and translated in several languages on that same website.
What role has research in the future of spearfishing?
In my opinion, it has a fundamental role.
Spearfishing so far has been largely forgotten scientifically. There is a lot of research on angling, but very little about spearfishing. At a management level, administrations apply only two criteria. Either, very weak technical measures on which no evaluation is carried out, or the total ban of the activity, with the excuse that the species recover. The latter, obviously, is a fallacy, since they do not evaluate any other possibility.
I believe that science has the following challenges:
• Demonstrate that spearfishing is an activity that has a place in the marine environment with specific and studied management measures.
- Assess the eventual impacts that the activity may have on the target species.
- Determine the extractive capacity of the activity with accuracy.
- Transmit all this knowledge in a clear and simple way to spearfishers and managers. In this sense, Spearfishing Lab is an example to consider.
How does IFSUA membership work?
It is important that all lovers of spearfishing and underwater activities in general have in mind that the defense of our rights is everyone’s business. Not just brands, clubs or stores. Every fisherman, every diver, has to put his little grain of sand for projects like this to pull forward. If not, nobody will defend our rights.
Entities (shops, clubs, associations, industry) that are interested in becoming a member of IFSUA can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Those who want to become members individually can do so from our website following this link: http://ifsua.net/index.php/en/component/osmembership/?layout=pricingtable