“Spearfishing Huntress” Stirs Debate over Spearfishing

   06.30.15

In just 48 hours, Valentine Thomas gained more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, and that was only the latest development in her soaring social media popularity. The 28-year-old Canadian woman, who recently quit her job in finance to become a full-time spearfisher, said that she found the experience overwhelming at first but is now glad to have become a voice for sustainable fishing.

“Society is used to buying (fish) at the grocery shop — you don’t see blood,” Thomas told the Toronto Sun. “I think most of the population doesn’t relate to the fact that the food has to be killed before it needs to look pretty in its little box.”

Thomas told Buzzfeed that she was initially flattered by her social media fame but has since tried to use it to advocate for conservation and spearfishing.

“I really encourage sustainable eating and spearfishing is definitely one of its purest forms in my opinion,” she said. “You catch exactly what you want to eat and there is no ‘collateral damages’ to it.”

Often shown in a bikini or diving suit with a speargun in hand, Thomas is a reminder that women are increasingly becoming interested in the outdoors, especially fishing or hunting. In fact, many industry experts say that there are now more new female hunters than male hunters. This led to a strange new phenomenon that some call “huntress shaming,” whereby anti-hunting advocates target women hunters.

In April, British comedian Ricky Gervais ignited a firestorm of debate when he called an American hunter a killer after sharing photos of her posing next to a giraffe. In that case, as in many others, some have noticed that the vitriol directed toward women hunters was much more scathing than for men who hunt. Thomas, who had also been insulted and belittled online for fishing, called the trend pure sexism.

“It’s pretty much what every woman has to deal with when you post anything and when you have so much courage on the Internet,” she told the Sun.

She said dealing with such criticism is a small price to pay if she can convince more women to join the sport.

“It is a men’s world, but I’m hoping that being a woman will only help in reaching even more people,” she said.

You can see a video of Thomas encountering a whale shark during a 2012 trip below.

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