Euroafrican Spearfishing Championship 2022 in Tunisia
The Euroafrican Spearfishing Championship this year will be held in Tunisia, from the 7th to the 11th of September. This is the first time that Tunis hosts such a big event, after the 1° World Cup for Clubs in 2018. One of the key people in the organization of EAC and the Tunisian Federation is Rifaat Bahri, who is also a member of the CMAS Spearfishing Commission.
Valentina Prokic: Please, introduce yourself to the readers of Apneapassion. I know that you are a spearfisherman, Captain of the Tunisian national team, and one of the Tunisian federation’s key people
Rifaat Bahri: I’m a sports teacher, and work with the Tunisian Federation of Sport Fishing full time since 2005 as technical director. I practiced several sports in clubs and university: handball, football, table tennis, gymnastics, swimming, and of course spearfishing, which was and remains my first hobby
Vale Prokic: How did you start with spearfishing in the beginning?
RB: It was at the beginning of the 70s with my father. He was one of the first spearfishermen in my hometown Hammamet and thanks to him I discovered the fascinating subaquatic world of the Mediterranean. There were still many fishes at 5-10 meters depth. For my success in the last year of primary school, my father bought me my first speargun. It was a 60 cm with a trident harpoon and I caught my first „enormous“ seabass (750gr) with it. It was a great event. I was 10 years old. The spearfishing activity was still not regulated by Tunisian law at the time.
Vale Prokic: Did you have good results on the national/international level?
Rifaat Bahri: As an athlete, I didn’t have the chance to compete in a CMAS championship. The Tunisian Federation of Sport Fishing was created in 2006, but we couldn’t integrate CMAS before 2015. In these 9 years, we built a national team and we managed to participate in some open international tournaments in which I took part as an athlete and coach:
- FIPSA World championship (Brasil 2006) → individual: 19, team: 5
- Trident de Neptune (Tunisia 2006) → individual: 6, team: 1st
- Champions League (Greece 2008) → team 15
At the national level, I couldn’t take part in the national competitions due to my position. I was the technical director of the federation and the organizer of the championship since its beginning in 2006. But I won one open tournament (Bizerte 2008).
Vale Prokic: When did you stop competing and started within the federation?
I was part of the group of people who created the federation in 2005 and I took up my duties as technical director from its creation. Because of my function in the federation, I could not participate in the national competitions. I was though an athlete on the national team until 2008 and later the captain.
Vale Prokic: Tunisia is organizing the Euroafrican championship this year. This is the 2nd big international spearfishing event in Tunisia. What can teams expect in Bizerte, in and out of water?
RB: Concerning the competition, I think that most of the teams (if not all of them) will enjoy spearfishing in Bizerte. You have been with us on the occasion of the CMAS World Cup for Clubs that we organized in 2018 and you have seen the quantity and the quality of catches. There is fish for all levels, even for the women teams who are supposed to go not as deep as men in spearfishing. An honorable catch can be done in 15-25 meters of depth.
Out of competition, Bizerte offers all the necessities, hotels, restaurants (traditional and modern food), touristic excursions can be organized for non competitors, and participants can make an immersion in downtown or in the old town to discover people’s hospitality and the local life which is organized around fishing.
Vale Prokic: You have organized also fishing events (angling), are these sports so popular in Tunisia?
RB: Yes. We decided when creating the Federation to gather all kinds of sports fishing and related disciplines. Besides spearfishing, we organize competitions of Apnea, Target Shooting, Shore Angling, Boat Angling, and Long Casting of Sea Weights.
We organized last December (2021) in Hammamet the FIPSM Shore Angling World Championship for masters that we won (we are World champions by team and individual). We organize this year in November the FIPSM Shore Angling World Championship for Seniors & Ladies that we hope to win. As we have nearly 1400 km of coastline mostly sandy, angling activity is very popular and can be considered a national hobby.
Vale Prokic: How many spearfishing athletes do you have in Tunisia?
RB: We deliver 450 spearfishing licenses on average per year, but of course, not all of them participate in national competitions. We consider that in Tunisia there are more than 3000 people practicing spearfishing as a hobby with different frequencies and only 15% are affiliated with clubs.
Vale Prokic: What do you need to spearfish in Tunisia?
RB: To practice spearfishing in Tunisia you need the authorization. You can get it from the regional commission for agriculture. You must also contract an insurance by yourself, or you can ask for a license from the federation. This is considered as an authorization with the insurance included.
Vale Prokic: What is the situation with fish? Do you have any special laws about catch, licenses, zones, and time for spearfishing?
In Tunisia, we notice a regression of fish livestock like in any country in the world due to industrial fishing and the evolution of recreational fishing. Spearfishermen have to go deeper every year to catch the fish that was taken in lower depth a few years ago. But this regression is not as important as on the European coasts because we have a lower fishing pressure.
Vale Prokic: How is the organization of the Euroafrican championship proceeding? I know it is a big work.
RB: Yes, it is really a big work. The organization team is taking the job very seriously. We want to do better than in the World Cup for Clubs in 2018, and offer a high level of organization. At the moment we are working on the contribution of some related sectors of the government. The big challenge is the boats, we must reiterate the same performance of 2018, which consists of gathering more than 70 boats from 30 to 150 horsepower.
Vale Prokic: Is the spearfishing community happy and excited about this event?
RB: Oh yes. It’s the biggest spearfishing event ever organized in Tunisia. All the Tunisian spearfishing community wants to see its national team starring at home. It is another big challenge for us. It is the opportunity for the Tunisian community to meet and see live the spearfishing stars that they usually see on youtube. If they are lucky they will be able to talk and exchange ideas with them. You know, such an event can boost the activity in our country and contribute to improving the image of spearfishing.
Vale Prokic: Your national team is already chosen? Are they preparing themselves for competition?
Rifaat Bahri: Our final national team is not yet defined. The members of the extended team are preparing themselves in their clubs for the moment. We have a selection stage in a few weeks to choose 4 athletes, and after that, we begin the special training for the competition.
Vale Prokic: Who do you think is the strongest athlete in Tunis? And will he compete and be between favorites?
RB: We have many strong athletes at a very high level like Hamza Khadhraoui, Hatem Abdallah, Aymen Ben Salem, Khitem Ennaceur, and some others who are comfortable and effective in big depth as in low depth. The most experienced remains Sami Belhaj Saad, who is the leader of the team and participated in all the CMAS competitions in which our national team took part since 2015. He ranked 8th in the deepest World Championship ever in Greece, Syros, in 2016. He must though succeed in the next selection stage among some others who are fighting for a place in the team and who are mostly younger than him.
As far as the favorites for the competition, in my opinion, there are of course the traditional Italian and Spanish, a lower degree there will be the Greeks, the Croats and surely the Cypriots. Regarding the Tunisians, some will consider our team as a favorite, others as an outsider. I can assure you though that we will be at Bizerte to win the competition and to prove first to ourselves and second to the rest of the spearfishing community that Tunisia is a great country of spearfishing. You know, many countries have the potential to be on the podium, but what makes the difference usually is the means. The means to bring 5, 6 or more extra athletes to help for scouting and to come on the spot early enough, like 2 or 3 weeks or more before competition for adaptation and scouting. This year we have this advantage and we believe that it’s our turn.