Hunting Invasive Species at the 2023 U.S. Spearfishing National Championships: 100 Competitors Making a Difference

Crystal-clear waters off Kona, Hawaii, provide the stage for a unique gathering of the spearfishing community—an event combining competition, environmental responsibility, and local culture. The U.S. Spearfishing National Championships, attracting 100 free-diving competitors this year, is directing its focus on hunting invasive fish species.

The tournament, hosted at the Waikoloa Canoe Club on Thursday, June 15th, is part of a strategic initiative to combat the adverse impacts of invasive fish species on Hawaii's delicate marine ecosystem. Participants are tasked with hunting three specific invasive species: the Roi (Peacock Grouper), the Ta‘ape (Blueline Snapper), and the To'au (Blacktail Snapper).

Invasive species, though sometimes neglected in broader environmental conversations, pose significant threats to local ecosystems. They can rapidly proliferate in new environments, disrupting the delicate balance of ecosystems. In Hawaii's unique marine environments, these disruptions can be particularly damaging.

The Roi, Ta‘ape, and To'au—introduced to Hawaiian waters in ill-advised attempts to supplement local fisheries—have proven more harmful than helpful. They out-compete native species for food and habitat, disrupt local ecosystems, and can introduce diseases.

The U.S. Spearfishing National Championships offers a valuable opportunity to control these invasive species' populations and raise awareness about the issue. Competitors will be diving from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, aiming to catch as many of these target species as possible within a set boundary.

Notably, two of the top competitors are friends of Tiki's Grill & Bar—Justin Lee and Kimi Werner. Justin, a former member of our team, and Kimi, who participated in a fundraising event and accompanied our chef on a diving expedition for octopus, bring their expertise and commitment to this critical cause.

The championships, both a physical challenge and a race against time, require competitors to complete their dive and cross the finish line by 3 pm. Results will be celebrated at the Awards Banquet the following evening, acknowledging competitors' skills and contributions to preserving Hawaii's marine life.

The 2023 U.S. Spearfishing National Championships showcase how sporting events can contribute to ecological efforts, transforming challenges into opportunities for positive environmental action. Each spearfisher who dives into the azure Hawaiian waters contributes to preserving the ocean's beauty for future generations.