Spear guns come in many forms
Recent court cases involving unlicensed spear guns prompted Chief Conservation Officer Mark Orr to agree to a demonstration of what is and is not a spear gun and what needs a licence.
Mr. Orr usually attends court for marine offences or ensures that the officers concerned are present.
One of the latest infractions of the Marine Conservation Law was committed by Daniel Brandon Powery, 27, who had what he thought was a gaff when he went fishing off North Side in Grand Cayman earlier this year.
Marine officers on patrol told him it was a hook stick and charged him for possession of an unlicensed spear gun.
In court, he initially pleaded guilty with explanation. It was his first offence. Chief Magistrate Nova Hall adjourned the matter for review. “Let’s see if we can sort this out,” she said.
When Powery returned, he was assisted by attorney John Furniss, who explained that, although the device was “a stick with a hook”, it fit the definition of a spear gun, which includes a hook stick.
Mr. Furniss indicated that the defendant accepted the definition, although somewhat reluctantly. “Many people have the same view,” he added.
The magistrate imposed a fine of $200 and ordered the hook stick forfeited to the Crown.
The term “spear gun”, as explained in the Marine Conservation Law, includes “a mechanical or pneumatic spear gun, a Hawaiian sling, a pole spear, a stick spear, harpoon, rod or any device with a pointed end which may be used to impale, stab or pierce any marine life, but does not include a striker”.
A spear gun is legal if the person using it has a licence.
Mr. Orr said explained that a striker is a wooden pole no less than 10 feet long with no more than two barb-less prongs at one end. Traditionally, a striker was used in combination with a “looking glass” to pick up conch from the sea bottom without leaving the boat.
A hook stick falls under the definition of spear gun because its sharp point can pierce or impale marine life. He pointed to the barb on the hook.
Homemade spear guns usually use heavy rubber bands or bungee cords to provide propulsion of a pointed rod – often a vehicle antenna.
Gaffs are legal when used for landing large fish caught by line fishing, he said. Although their ends are pointed, gaffs do not have barbs, he noted, and the space between the rod and hook end is wider than with a hook stick.
Mr. Orr said persons wishing to obtain a spear gun license for a hook stick may submit their applications to the Marine Conservation Board, through the Cayman Islands Department of Environment.
A hook stick falls under the definition of spear gun because its sharp point can pierce or impale marine life.