Spearfishing in Mallorca – What you need to know #1: Laws and regulations

Episode #1 of the “Spearfishing in Mallorca – What you need to know” series. This first episode deals with the laws and regulations around spearfishing in the Balearic islands.

Welcome to the Spearfishing in Mallorca – What you need to know series!

Every spearfishing destination is unique in terms of dive conditions, available species, species behaviour, common practices, sustainability concerns and last but not least – regulations. In this series we dive into the different aspects and considerations related to spearfishing specifically in Mallorca – the beautiful island that I’m fortunate enough to call home – and the Balearic Islands in general, all to make sure that you have all the background information you need to avoid unnecessary mistakes before taking up the practice here .

In this first episode we take a look at the laws and regulations for spearfishing in the Balearics.

License requirements

Spearfishing in the Balearic islands require two valid documents. Failure to posses them while spearfishing violates not only the fishery laws but also the laws regulating the carrying of arms and knives.

1. Membership in FBDAS (Federación Balear de Actividades Subacuáticas,  www.fbdas.com) FBDAS is the Balearic underwater sports federation – a subdivision of FEDAS, the Spanish national CMAS affiliation. Their office is at the bottom floor of Palma Arena.

Membership in FBDAS is in terms of one full year from the date of application. The application requires the following supporting documents.

  1. Copy of Passport/ID card. If you have a Spanish NIE/DNI use that as it will never change and makes renewal easier.
  2. A Medical Certificate dated within one year stating that you are fit for spearfishing on breath-hold. A proper term in Spanish is la práctica de la pesca marítima de recreo submarina a pulmón libre.
  3. An Active Civil Liability Insurance. Basically this is to make sure that there is an insurance covering the cost if you accidentally shoot someone or otherwise cause harm with your speargun or dive knife. Any relevant insurance will do but the most common option is to go with the federations own insurance, that also provides dive accident cover for both freediving and scuba diving. A pretty good deal.

A one year membership with liability and dive accident insurance will set you back 65 EUR. The application process is quick and you will get provided with a membership card in the form of a credit card size plastic card on the spot.

With a membership in FBDAS you are legally allowed to buy, possess and carry a speargun and dive knife. With this document in your possession you could for example practice target shooting with a speargun underwater without violating any laws. If you want to shoot and bring back actual fish though, you also need a spearfishing license.

2. Spearfishing license. The license is available in terms of one full year from the date off application and you apply either at the office of Dirección General de Pesca y Medio Marino or at any of the FOGAIBA (Fons de Garantia Agrària i Pesquera de les Illes Balears) offices. I have personally used the FOGAIBA offices in Inca and Palma and they both provided very quick on the spot processing. You get your license in the form of a credit card size plastic card on the spot. In order to apply you need to prepare the following supporting documents:

  1. Copy of Passport/ID card
  2. Expired license in original (in case of renewal)
  3. Proof of membership in FBDAS (see above) in the form of a photo copy of the membership card.
  4. Proof of payment of the license fee of 28,04 EUR. The fee may be paid over the counter in any bank using the form 046 or online at the following address www.atib.es/ta/modelos/Modelo.aspx?m=046&idConcepto=4344 (requires Spanish ID number)
  5. Filled in application form. The form can be picked up at the application offices or downloaded in advance from the following link https://www.caib.es/seucaib/es/tramites/tramite/1682710.

All in all it will set you back close to 90 EUR to be legally covered for spearfishing for 1 full year (not including the cost of a medical certificate). Shorter term plans are not available so it is not very tourist friendly. But you should see it this way. For one week of spearfishing the cost adds up to less than 15 EUR / day. Compare that to Scuba diving where you typically pay around 40-50 EUR per dive with costs for the required medical certificate and valid dive insurance on top. Very little information and service is available in other languages than Mallorquin and Spanish. If you don’t speak them seek help from someone who does.

Fish limitations

There are typically no individual bag limits of any specific fish in the Balearics, but there is a maximum catch limit of 5kg plus one fish per day per license.

Many coastal and some pelagic species have minimum catch sizes that needs to be respected. A full list can be downloaded from the following link.
To follow the legal catch limits only ensures that you are following the law. But unfortunately, as minimum sizes are slow to change and does not necessarily reflect a current situation, they do not ensure that you are practicing a sustainable fishing method. More on that in episode #3.

Fish markings

It is strictly forbidden to sell any catch from recreational fishing in any form. Certain high value commercial species needs to be marked in a certain way after catch to make sure that they don’t end up in the market. The way to do that is to cut off part of the tail fin in the below manner. This needs  to be done right after catch in the case of spearfishing or before disembarking in the case of fishing from a boat.

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How to mark a fish as non commercial


Other regulations

Spearfishing is only allowed on breath-hold, spearfishing on scuba or other forms of underwater breathing aid is prohibited.

  • Dive lights are allowed to light up holes, but not to attract prey.
  • You may use one dive knife and one dive light.
  • The use of a surface marker buoy is mandatory. Furthermore, you need to stay within 25m of the buoy at all times.
  • Spearfishing between sunset and sunrise is prohibited.
  • It is not allowed to be towed behind a boat while spearfishing

Summing it up

The legal requirements for spearfishing here may seem a little overwhelming at a first glance. But as long as you have your paperwork in order it’s a very quick and straight forward process to get your permits issued. If you don’t speak the languages of use here ask help from someone who does. Do not expect to make yourself understood at the relevant offices in English or any other foreign language.

In the next episode we are going to have a look at the dive conditions in Mallorca and how they affect spearfishing.