Pick up any dive magazine and chances are you will not find information promoting the take of game fish by divers. Whether it is for “political correctness” to omit such activity in order to sell more magazines, or maintain a certain criteria for advertisers, underwater hunting has been perceived as an undesired, unspoken activity only for the heartless, and uncivilized, seeking to kill those “cute little critters living underwater.”

Unfortunately, we hear all too often about divers seeing a protected giant black sea bass swimming by with a spear sticking through it or similar negative debauchery. Imagine my disbelief when I myself witnessed a diver returning to the boat with a little bright orange fish on the tip of his spear, hearing him say; “Is this any good to eat?” And not discussing the issues has yet to produce the desired effects: respect for regulations, protection and conservation. By promoting underwater hunting, coupled with education, much more can be done to protect endangered species as well as designate and maintain reserves that help for healthy fish populations. Whether you are a hunter or not, you cannot deny the positive effects that sport hunters and their revenues have had on California’s wildlife and habitat.

Like most divers and fishermen, we also are stewards of the oceans and their resources. There are too many out there wanting to place further limits and regulations, due to the stupidity or indifference of a few clowns as previously mentioned. Anyone can purchase a speargun or pole spear, then head for the water. We need to take another look at better educating those who hunt and those new to underwater hunting.

Here in Sacramento, Michael Johnson, the owner of Dolphin Scuba Center Inc., announced a P.A.D.I. Underwater Hunter course that addresses these concerns. Taught by Master Instructors, this Specialty Dive Course is a comprehensive introduction to hunting underwater, and recognized by P.A.D.I., an organization dedicated to the very same principles and awareness most of us share.

The classroom instruction, stresses safety, and uses current hunting regulations, and a “Finfish and Shellfish Identification” book from the California Department of Fish and Game (www.dfg.ca.gov/mrd) that details specific game fish.

The best hunters are those armed with skills such as experience, knowledge and patience. Without these learned skills, you are most likely to maim, injure or take prohibited or protected game.

Just as a fisherman might return his catch to the sea, a good hunter knows what he’s after and will usually pass up game not yet mature, too easy, or not to his liking.

Whatever the reason, underwater hunting can be the most fun and rewarding class taken, providing divers a new perspective and appreciation of underwater life, habitat and awareness of a sustainable resource that needs our support.