Experience: Commercial Fisherman, EcoTour Operator
Regions: Otago, Cook Strait, Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Stewart Osland
Interview Location: Karitane, NZ
Interview Date: 03 November 2015
Post Date: 17 May 2017; Copyright © 2017 Allan Anderson and Steve Crawford
4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCES
CRAWFORD: Was there a time that you remember when you first heard about, or saw a White Pointer? Something that made a first impression on you?
ANDERSON: I think the very first sighting of a White Pointer was right on the Karitane Bar here. Right as we’re going out, over the bar here. And that was actually with Peter Scott and Cyril - they were both on the boat. And it was foggy, and it was just like a scene from Jaws.
CRAWFORD: When was this roughly?
ANDERSON: New Year's Day.
CRAWFORD: New Year's Day - roughly what year?
ANDERSON: Early 1980’s, very early 80’s.
CRAWFORD: Early 80’s, and you’re out fishing with Peter and Cyril?
ANDERSON: Yep Cyril. Just as we’re going out of the channel.
CRAWFORD: You weren’t actually fishing yet?
ANDERSON: No, we were leaving the port. To go pick up our nets. And as we’re crossing over the bar there, we saw a big fella and he was just cruising along like that. And then we went out, and pulled our nets.
CRAWFORD: Fin out of the water, or you saw him below the surface?
ANDERSON: No. Fin out of the water. Just like cruising, really slow like that. Just cruising.
CRAWFORD: Of those 4 general categories, you Pete and Cyril going over the bar, you saw the fish - it was cruising?
ANDERSON: Just disappeared like that.
CRAWFORD: And it didn't even react to you?
CRAWFORD: That seems like Level 1 observation. No interaction. No seeming interest from the fish. You said ‘big fella’ - could it have been a female?
ANDERSON: Well yeah, it could have been a female. That particular fish, I saw it myself again one other time. About the same period, so we had multiple sightings.
CRAWFORD: Within like days?
ANDERSON: A week.
It’s possible it was the same fish. It could have been a different fish. But the fact that you saw it, you rarely see them, and then you see another in roughly the same place ...
ANDERSON: That’s right. The same place.
CRAWFORD: And roughly the same size?
ANDERSON: Yeah. It was a bit further away the second time I saw it. And we were in a small boat, and we just left the area you know?
CRAWFORD: Small boat as in what - 12 foot?
ANDERSON: 12 foot aluminum dinghy. So it’s a little outboard.
CRAWFORD: Was it the same type of thing? You saw the fin?
ANDERSON: Just sort of slowly cruising.
CRAWFORD: Orientated to that boat?
CRAWFORD: It was just doing its thing?
CRAWFORD: You that decided, based on the observation, that you would skedaddle?
ANDERSON: Yeah that’s right. Because it was quite a big fish. And that fish was sighted by other fisherman, as well. There was one guy there, Mac Chaplin, it had actually swum underneath his boat. He was cleaning fish, because at the time they were all setnetting, catching Rigs and sharks.
ANDERSON: Like school sharks.
ANDERSON: Yeah, Greyboys and Rigs - which are kind of like a toothless shark. So there’s quite a lot of gutting, cleaning. Chop their big heads and that. The boats would stop at the bar here and clean the fish.
CRAWFORD: Just on the outside of the bar, and they would clean their fish. Would they anchor there?
CRAWFORD: And they would clean their fish right there.
ANDERSON: Yeah. A lot of offal. Lots of offal there. Presumably that’s what was bringing this shark in. Because one of the guys that was cleaning there, it swam right underneath his boat. He commented that he could see, as he stood on the deck, I forget how wide his boat is, but he could see tail and head, basically at the same time. That’s how big the fish was.
CRAWFORD: Across the beam [width] of the vessel?
CRAWFORD: Roughly how long would that be?
From here to the windows. Three metres or something like that, you know?
CRAWFORD: Ok, and that’s a Level 2, because the animal's already orientated towards the boat?
ANDERSON: It was feeding off him.
CRAWFORD: He saw it feeding?
ANDERSON: Yeah. It was feeding, eating.
CRAWFORD: He was throwing offal overboard, and that White Pointer was eating what he was throwing over.
CRAWFORD: Eating it passively?
ANDERSON: I don’t know, don’t know.
CRAWFORD: Ok. This was off the bar? Did this White Pointer ever come inside the bar?
ANDERSON: [Not that shark, as far as I knew.]
CRAWFORD: Lets go back to that one fish - you saw it twice?
CRAWFORD: And when you add other people's sightings, how many times do you figure that White Pointer was seen?
ANDERSON: It must have been sighted 20 times or more. Yeah.
CRAWFORD: Over the course of how long?
ANDERSON: A week or two. And then the same - exactly the same time the next season - there was one that turned up there as well.
CRAWFORD: Really? What time of year was this?
ANDERSON: Christmas time. Right at Christmas because the community here was like "Don’t go diving and stuff like that because there’s a White Pointer around, you know?" That was one year, and then the very next year we had another one here again.
CRAWFORD: You figure it was the same shark or a different one?
ANDERSON: Well, we sort of thought that it was the same one coming back. A bit of a pattern. And that was on the bar. We never found it out at sea or anything like that, it was only right on the bar, or in the bay there.
CRAWFORD: Not out at sea, but you never saw it down the coastline either?
ANDERSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: That Christmas time, was there anything different in terms of the nature of the fishery, was that a factor?
ANDERSON: We were catching a lot of fish at the time. There were a lot of fish around.
CRAWFORD: More than usual? Was it peak harvest? That time of year?
ANDERSON: Yeah, because we’d fished through those Christmas seasons, because that was when the Rigs run the best. We can’t stay home. That wouldn’t allow us to fish through the holiday period. So, water was probably getting up to its warmest temperature, and there were plenty of school fish around.
CRAWFORD: Lots of things going on?
ANDERSON: Lots of food here. Like the whole place was jam packed with school fish.
CRAWFORD: Ok. In the early 1980s, during that one or two weeks when the shark was around the bar, and then again the next year - roughly how many boats were cleaning their fish around the bar?
ANDERSON: It would have been 10.
CRAWFORD: Variety of sizes.
ANDERSON: Quite a lot of setnetting fishery. The Rig shark was booming at that stage, where everybody was doing it. Catches were, you know, catches were up to a 1000 kilos of fish a day.
CRAWFORD: Per boat?
ANDERSON: Yeah. You would get back to the bar here, and you would only have a quarter of your fish cleaned. So then you’d sit at the bar and clean the rest.
CRAWFORD: But, as far as you know, no indication that that this White Pointer, let's presume for right now that it was the same individual, no indication that individual was coming over the bar and following the boats to port.
ANDERSON: No. We only ever saw it on the outside of the bar in the kelp.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That was the first time you saw a White Pointer.
CRAWFORD: And you were confidant it was a White Pointer.
ANDERSON: Well, there was no doubt what it was from the size and the colour and everything. It was something we hadn’t seen before. And the girth of them you know? How fat they are.
CRAWFORD: And the colour?
ANDERSON: Yeah, striking grey really.
CRAWFORD: A striking grey? People don’t normally pick grey as striking.
ANDERSON: We used to see Blue sharks and a lot of Makos, which are very blue and very shiny - this was kind of dull.
CRAWFORD: Makos are thinner?
ANDERSON: A lot thinner yeah.
CRAWFORD: Let's talk about Basking Sharks. That was something that I wanted to get to, that you had mentioned very briefly before. How many times have you seen Basking Sharks around here? Or anywhere for that matter?
ANDERSON: Saw a lot of them in here, the Foveaux Strait. Heaps of them there back at the time. We’d see, I reckon for a month or so, we were seeing them virtually most days. And we saw up to 30 of them.
CRAWFORD: 30 individual sightings, or they were aggregated?
ANDERSON: No, 30 fish. They were aggregated.
CRAWFORD: Were they schooling?
ANDERSON: All swimming exactly the same way.
CRAWFORD: They were schooling? Ok. And roughly closer to ...
ANDERSON: It was more the other side of Centre Island, it was more in this sort of area here.
CRAWFORD: The middle of the Strait?
ANDERSON: Yeah, the middle of the Straits. Yeah. Just all gliding along like that together, all going in the same direction. And lots of them. Lots of them.
CRAWFORD: Ok. You’ve seen Basking Sharks several times, at least on one occasion schooled up, and they’re big fish and they cruise along. In terms of what they look like, how are Basking Sharks different from White Pointers?
ANDERSON: Just that big nose on them, the big wide mouth. That girth in the throat when they’ve got their mouth open. And even their fins are shaped differently.
CRAWFORD: If they've got their mouth open?
ANDERSON: They still have the big sort of pointy noise, you know? And they swim really, really slow. Like they’re hardly moving at all. They’re just sort of ... their tail's just sort of going like that. They’re quite sloth-like. Once you’ve seen a Basking shark, they’re pretty easy to pick.
CRAWFORD: What about the fin?
ANDERSON: The fin, yeah - it’s really big.
CRAWFORD: Similar or different from White Pointers?
ANDERSON: They’re sort of fatter and sort of rougher. Really sort of textured differently. It’s not as smooth.
CRAWFORD: From a distance ...
ANDERSON: Yeah you could tell from a distance, easy.
CRAWFORD: How many other times did you see a White Pointer?
ANDERSON: The next one was in 1990 or very late 80s. I was skippering the Lady Ann, and we were long-lining for Groper and Ling.
CRAWFORD: Generally, what was your long-lining operation like?
ANDERSON: A thousand hooks.
CRAWFORD: How long was the line?
ANDERSON: A mile or so.
CRAWFORD: With a thousand hooks distributed?
ANDERSON: Yeah, and floats and bait.
CRAWFORD: What were you baiting with?
ANDERSON: Squid and fish like Moki. And it sinks down to the bottom, sits on the bottom. And it’s in about 200 fathoms [approx. 360 metres] of water, so it’s quite deep. And then we would just wind the line back up, and the line comes back.
CRAWFORD: Did you go back to the beginning, where you set it - go to that end?
CRAWFORD: And then pick it up the same way that you laid it?
ANDERSON: Yeah. We were fishing on a seamount that’s populated by a lot of big fish. Like Groper, they were big fish so it’s a huge lot of fish.
CRAWFORD: What do you think makes these seamounts so productive?
ANDERSON: Currents, upwellings, I don’t know. There’s obviously a lot of food there, because these fish grow big.
CRAWFORD: It’s a feeding ground for several species of big fish, as opposed to being primarily a migration ground or a spawning ground?
ANDERSON: Yeah, definitely these fish live there.
CRAWFORD: Where is this, roughly?
ANDERSON: It’s right here, this little canyon. As you see it comes up.
CRAWFORD: The Continental Shelf comes in very close. But you’re less than 2 nautical miles and you’re already over the abyss.
ANDERSON: We used to get a lot of sharks. And when we were hauling the line up, you’d have Groper that were up to 40 kilos, sort of thing. Each fish. So, we had a lot of sharks that would predate on the fish caught on the line. It was actually a problem at times, they could really eat at times ...
CRAWFORD: Faster than you could bring in?
ANDERSON: Well, they could eat 40 percent of your catch you know? You could lose half a tonne of fish.
CRAWFORD: Really? What amount of time - how long does it take to lay the line?
ANDERSON: Three quarters of an hour.
CRAWFORD: And how long does it take to haul the line, with a typical catch?
ANDERSON: Four hours.
CRAWFORD: So, we’re talking five hours in total?
ANDERSON: Oh no, you’d be out there for a whole day. You shoot the line away, just in the dark before daylight. You’re shooting away at, say 4 o'clock in the morning. You pick it up at about 8 o’clock, 9 o'clock in the morning. And then you’re back at the port here later that day. It’s a full day thing, really.
CRAWFORD: Ok, but what I’m trying to get to is that the line was fishing for approximately 3 or 4 hours?
ANDERSON: A couple of hours, maybe three hours. The sharks can be predating on the bottom, and most of the time as you haul the Groper up - and when you get the Groper up to the surface, they inflate, the air bladder expands - and they float. And then the lines sort of along the surface, dotted like this on the surface. And then you actually see the sharks all swimming around the line, and eating them.
CRAWFORD: What kind of sharks were taking bites?
ANDERSON: Mainly Makos. Lots of Makos. Sometimes the Blues, but the Blues wouldn’t ... they would sort of maul the fish rather than eat it. But the Makos would just perfectly cut - you just end up with heads. So neat, like you had cut it with a knife.
CRAWFORD: And you know they were Makos because it was at the surface?
ANDERSON: We caught a lot of them.
CRAWFORD: Makos in turn would get hooked?
ANDERSON: Nah. We’d put a shark line out, and actually catch them.
CRAWFORD: In order to prevent them from taking your catch?
ANDERSON: Yeah. They were obviously living there. Like every day you could be hounded for weeks and weeks by these sharks.
CRAWFORD: How do you fish a shark line, in that case?
ANDERSON: You put chum out, you know? Chuck another big hunk of stuff out and float it. And you just have it out all the time while you’re fishing.
CRAWFORD: So it’s a diversion? In that case, a Mako that came over would get hooked?
ANDERSON: Yeah. Hook on our shark line.
CRAWFORD: Ok, so it’s not just a behavioural distraction, it actually removes the animal?
ANDERSON: And sometimes you would only need to catch them and sort of like you could release them and they would go away. And then other times, we killed a few. Not many, but we did kill a few. Sometimes we even sold the meat. Sold the meat on quite a few occasions.
CRAWFORD: It was no surprise, it was nothing unusual to see sharks taking bites at your longline catch?
CRAWFORD: And this was ... Groper was the target in this case?
CRAWFORD: And you were getting Groper, and maybe some other fish species too?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Did you have Makos at the same time as this observation of a White Pointer?
ANDERSON: No. I don’t remember Makos at the same time. Well, I suppose it was a sharky year. Some years there's a lot more sharks around than others.
CRAWFORD: All species of sharks?
ANDERSON: Yeah. We mainly caught Makos and Porbeagles. And just only those two occasions, we had Whites.
CRAWFORD: Why do you figure some years are sharky years?
ANDERSON: I think it’s water temperature.
CRAWFORD: Were they warmer years?
ANDERSON: Yeah, I think they were. They were these El Niño years and stuff like that, when it was warmer temperature, and I think there were more sharks in those years.
CRAWFORD: Did you see corresponding increase in other fish, like their prey, as well?
ANDERSON: No. But there was another observation, we saw a Leatherback Turtle one of those years when it was really sharky. And we also picked up coconuts out of the water you know?
ANDERSON: Coconuts, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Where the hell is the nearest coconut tree?
ANDERSON: Way out in the Pacific somewhere. But they’ve been bobbing around, floating for a long time. All full of barnacles and stuff like that. Saw the first one and we thought there’s a fishing float and we picked it up and it’s a friggin' coconut you know?
CRAWFORD: And that was in a sharky year?
ANDERSON: Yep. We picked up four or five coconuts within a couple of days you know? Just bobbing around. We even drank the milk out of them, and ate the flesh. It was alright. That was the same year as Cyclone Bola. That was that year. [March 1988]
CRAWFORD: It was after the cyclone?
ANDERSON: Yeah. So that was the year we caught all the sharks. We had a lot of sharks that year.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how long after the cyclone had gone through?
ANDERSON: Oh, weeks. No, no, more than that. Six months. Because we figured that these coconuts must have had something to do with Cyclone Bola, you know?
CRAWFORD: The cyclone blew the coconuts off the trees, and it must have been a whole hell of a lot of them, if you were picking up half a dozen here in New Zealand?
ANDERSON: Yeah, the ocean would have been littered with them really.
CRAWFORD: But that cyclone could have also ...
ANDERSON: Altered the currents.
CRAWFORD: Altered the currents. Moved the prey, to move the sharks as well. And/or moved the water that the sharks preferred, right?
CRAWFORD: Warmer water?
ANDERSON: Yeah. Because we saw that big Leatherback Turtle as well. Huge, big one. So there were a few things happening that year that we thought, "That’s all a bit odd."
CRAWFORD: And that was all in the Karitane region?
CRAWFORD: Ok. In this particular case, bottom longlining, you’ve got Gropers floating on the surface. What happened next?
ANDERSON: Well, the first shark we saw was ... we’d shot the long-line away into the dark, so it wasn’t into the daylight. We started hauling it a couple of hours after dark, so it was pitch black dark - absolutely flat-ass calm, and just a really good night. I was pulling the line up - the line would come from the front of the boat, we had a block at the front of the boat, and then the line would come all the way to the back of the boat and we used to take the hooks off as it all came along. Take the fish off. Anyway, we had a spotlight that to shine down onto the block at the front of the boat, and we’re all lit up with all of our lights and stuff.
CRAWFORD: Is that so the skipper can see when fish are coming onboard?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah. But you couldn’t really see into the water or that, because it was shaded by the equipment and that, sort of looking up there. All of a sudden a big pile of rope, like a big knotted bit of rope, comes up into the block. We often get tangled and that, and it was like that, and then all of a sudden something else comes up and jammed the block, you know? And it was just something big and black like that. And I couldn’t quite see so I went up the front of the boat and instantly realised it was the tail of a fish. A big shark. Just the tail. And I looked at it and I yelled out to the crew, "Bloody Basking Shark." That was what we said it was you know? Because it was so big. It was about the same Basking Shark size. This fish had been swimming along the line, getting hooked up in all the hooks, and all the ropes and floats ...
CRAWFORD: Hooked up incidentally, or because it was chowing down on the fish?
ANDERSON: We thought it was a Basking shark that had just got tangled.
CRAWFORD: Multiple hooks?
ANDERSON: 150, 200 hooks. All tangled all around it, like half a mile of line. Big balls of line like this and floats. It was just a massive entanglement you know?
CRAWFORD: What’s the gauge on the line?
ANDERSON: 10 mm.
CRAWFORD: And this is steel?
ANDERSON: No, no. It’s just rope like that out there. So, it’s got that all tangled all around it. Like big balls of it. It had obviously just been swimming around and the odd hook was hooking into its body like this. He had them all around his neck and down on his fins and on his tail; it had a lot of fishing equipment all on it. What we did then was, we got the gaff and we just sort of - from the tail, we started gaffing little bits of rope around him, and pulling that bit up, and as much as we could we were tying it off on the rail. So we had the tail of the fish at the front of the boat, and then he went into the water like this, and we had down towards the last quarter of the boat, he was tied at that end. So we had him tied right along the whole side of the boat. There's the boat, and the fish is laying on his side like this, from the front of the boat to about there.
CRAWFORD: Which boat was this?
ANDERSON: The Lady Ann - it’s a 40 foot boat.
CRAWFORD: 40 foot boat, and this shark is 20 feet plus?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah. This is big as. And no bullshit it was about as round as a mini. It was massively round.
CRAWFORD: As round as a mini?
ANDERSON: Like a car, like a car. It was round like that, you know? And that's what made me think that it was a Basking Shark. So anyway, we were trying to get our fishing gear.
CRAWFORD: And this was at night?
ANDERSON: Pitch black dark. We had this poor bugger on the boat that had never been to sea before, and it was tripping him out, we got this shark. Anyway, we’re trying to get all our ropes, all our fishing equipment off him, because there’s basically thousands of dollars of fishing equipment tangled on this fish. I actually at one stage stepped on the fish. So, I’m actually hanging on to the rail like this, standing on the fish.
CRAWFORD: On the fish, and the fish is in the water?
ANDERSON: Yeah. And I’m leaning across and chopping and getting floats and things off this fish. We had it tied up along the rail in probably like 20 places with little half hitches of rope that had all come off it. Anyway, the fish is kind of just, very slowly - a little bit of movement. But I thought it was pretty much dead, you know? And we’re getting all these hooks and things off, and we worked along until we got its head up, and then its head was up - and I’m sort of looking at its head like this. And then all of a sudden, it just opens its mouth. And then it goes like that, and all of a sudden, all these teeth just sort of pop out like that at me! And I just jumped back on the boat and go "Shit, it’s a bloody White Pointer." And to be honest, at the time we sort of had visions of "We’ll make some money out of this and you know, we’ll be on the television" sorts of things. So right, we’re going to try and tie it, we’ll drag it back to port. But we got to tidy it up a bit. You know, we got to try and get as much of this, because it looked pretty ugly with all the fish hooks, it didn’t look very good. So we put a strop around its tail, and then brought it back to the midship of the boat, and started hauling it on the block and tackle that we use for hauling our trawl nets in. So we hauled him up, but we could only basically get him up to his asshole out of the water. That’s how heavy he was, our lifting equipment wouldn’t lift him.
CRAWFORD: How is the block and tackle tied onto the fish?
ANDERSON: A big strop, round its tail.
CRAWFORD: You’re lifting tail first?
ANDERSON: Yeah, we let it all go from on the rail, where we had it tied up sideways like this.
CRAWFORD: Now it’s no longer tied to the boat?
ANDERSON: Yeah, so now it’s like this [tail up]. So we try and haul it up.
CRAWFORD: And you can’t get it on the deck?
ANDERSON: We can only get it up to the asshole. And it’s about all we can get out of the water. It’s got a lot more line and stuff on it. And this all took quite a while. And when we lifted it up like that, it actually lifted the boat over! Lifted it over quite a long way. And so we’re still chopping all of this line off, and he was just kind of like basically moving along the rail, he was just sort of moving along the rail like this. And I’m still working away at this, and then all of a sudden it just arced up, big time! Like a sort of death roll kind of thing. Just started shaking, violently shaking. And now it was pulling the boat over sideways like this, and it shook hard. We had all the lights on the mast, on the top of the mast - it shook all of them out. So, all of a sudden, the whole boat's plunged into darkness! This thing's thrashing like mad. The new guy that’s on the boat is traumatized - he’s squealing like "Mummy." And at that stage, I came across with the knife and cut the whole thing free. Lost all the fishing gear, and yeah. So we came back home, and the owner of the boat was really upset with me - he bloody yelled and screamed at me because of all the loss of fishing gear and all the rest of it. Probably didn’t believe that it was a shark. Probably thought that I had hooked up on the bottom or something, and lost all the gear. So anyway, that was it.
CRAWFORD: Wow. Ok. What about the third White Pointer you've seen?
ANDERSON: We didn’t go long-lining for a few days, because we lost a lot of gear. So. we put setnets back on the boat. And pretty much the next day or the day after it, we were in the same place but we were using nets. And we caught another one.
CRAWFORD: A different shark?
ANDERSON: Yeah, different. This one was only small. This one was only about 8 feet. But it was definitely a White Pointer, you know?
CRAWFORD: And it was tangled up in your setnet?
ANDERSON: No it wasn’t really tangled. It was just lying in the mesh, so the mesh is sort of like that and it’s just lying there. Basically, I leant over the front of the boat with the gaff, and put the gaff in it and it woke him up and he just swum through the net, and just went boom - like that, you know? So, he wasn’t really entangled. He must have been at some stage, but he was just kind of lying there. And when I woke him up with the gaff he just went straight through all the mesh.
CRAWFORD: And that’s the third time you’ve seen a White Pointer?
CRAWFORD: A couple of days later, but the same place as the big sharks that was tangled in you longline gear?
ANDERSON: In exactly the same place.
CRAWFORD: On the seamount?
CRAWFORD: Rough depth?
ANDERSON: 120 fathoms.
CRAWFORD: And they were bottom set lines, but the gropers were floating?
ANDERSON: Yeah. So that was the second one…
CRAWFORD: Were you getting any other types of sharks, any other species in the setnet as well?
ANDERSON: Yeah. You get Makos and Grey Sharks, Porbeagles.
CRAWFORD: At that same time as well?
ANDERSON: Yeah, that year was a sharky year. There was a lot of them around.
CRAWFORD: Any other White Pointers that you've seen?
ANDERSON: The next observation was, we had a yacht and we sailed it down to Stewart Island one Christmas.
CRAWFORD: Sailed it from?
ANDERSON: Port Chalmers.
CRAWFORD: Down to Stewart Island for Christmas?
CRAWFORD: Halfmoon Bay?
ANDERSON: Yeah. And people were saying the sharks come in about 11 o’clock every day. And we thought "No shit" so we parked in at Oban, and walked over the hill one morning to the wharf there. And we were waiting and waiting. And then just like clockwork, there was probably like 50 people on the wharf, and like clockwork these sharks, they didn’t come really close to us, but we saw enough to know that it was 2 small ones and one large one. And they were just swimming all together. And they just came in and did a quick bit of a loop around, and the weird thing about it was, there was a guy with a jet-ski, jet-skiing there, right off the beach. And he had a shelagh on the back who fell off a couple of times. And here are these sharks, and this guy with a jet-ski, and everybody knew that these sharks were there.
CRAWFORD: Except for him?
ANDERSON: No, he knew, he knew. Just wasn’t bothered. So, he was jet-skiing around.
CRAWFORD: They’re cruising together, these three fish? They’re clearly together - two smaller ones and one bigger one?
ANDERSON: Yeah. And it was just a drive-by. And they just went. And then the next day ...
CRAWFORD: How far off the wharf, roughly?
ANDERSON: 150 feet.
CRAWFORD: And then a bit of a loop?
ANDERSON: Yeah, they just did a loop, they kind of disappeared.
CRAWFORD: Did they come in amongst the boats that were moored?
ANDERSON: Yeah, so they came from this side, there’s the wharf there if you know the wharf, so they came from this shoreline here and then they cruised here like this, and all the boats were parked over here, and then we sort of lost them amongst the boats.
CRAWFORD: So they did go among the boats?
ANDERSON: Yeah. They went across that way, and that’s probably where we lost them. But I think at times, they had actually swum around the wharf and done a lot more.
CRAWFORD: Ok, but this was your personal observation, you and 50 other people or whatever. They had all come down. Did you see those sharks again?
CRAWFORD: How many times do you hear of these fish previously swimming through the harbour like that?
ANDERSON: I think they’d had four or five sightings before.
CRAWFORD: Because I’ll be talking to the Stewart Islanders and for sure this is going to come up. But this was a pattern, right?
CRAWFORD: There were always three sharks? It could have been more, it could have been less? Do you remember?
ANDERSON: It was three when I saw them.
CRAWFORD: But had you heard anything about ...
ANDERSON: No, I think we had heard three before. I think they were getting round together, these animals. And it was the next day or the day after, we were back at Paterson's - and we heard the story that Joe Cave, he was over in Wanaka or Queenstown having his Christmas holiday, and the locals had rung him up, and he’d flown back or got back to Stewart Island and he’d set a net.
CRAWFORD: One net?
ANDERSON: One net. In front of them or something like that. But then he caught 2 of them.
CRAWFORD: In Halfmoon Bay?
CRAWFORD: So, it would have been on their route some place?
ANDERSON: Yeah. Basically, he stuck it where they’d been travelling, the day before or whatever. I didn’t see him do it, but I heard and I just thought to myself "That’s bloody terrible, why would you do that?" As far as I was concerned they were a great attraction, you know? So I was horrified he’d come back and got these, and pulled them up on the wharf and took photos of them, and took them to the local dump or whatever they did with them. Because they weren’t aggressive, they weren’t causing any problems, they were just swimming, they weren’t swimming crazy. They were just like drive-by, real slow.
CRAWFORD: In those categories we discussed before, there’s Level 1 which is just an observation, Level 2 is a swim-by you, Level 3 and Level 4 are with something extra. This was level 1?
CRAWFORD: There was no indication that they were showing any interest in people?
ANDERSON: No. Nothing at all.
CRAWFORD: That you heard of?
ANDERSON: No. I hadn’t heard that they’d been swimming around boats or charter boats or fishing boats, or anything like that. All they were doing, I just heard that they cruised the bay.
CRAWFORD: What, if anything, did you hear about the fish that were actually netted?
ANDERSON: Apparently, it wasn’t the big one. They only caught two small ones.
CRAWFORD: The two little ones of the three got caught?
ANDERSON: Yeah, that’s what I heard.
CRAWFORD: I’ll find out more of the details but, little is what 10 feet, 12 feet?
ANDERSON: Yeah, something like that. But there was one that was actually larger than the other two you know? Like a third size larger. A lot larger.
CRAWFORD: Right. And what happened then? What did other people say? Was it split, or did everyone say "Yeah, that’s good"?
ANDERSON: No, no it was definitely split. Definitely split.
CRAWFORD: Was there anybody else that had set nets for these sharks?
ANDERSON: Well, there could have been - I don’t really know, you know?
CRAWFORD: But there were other people who, like you, thought that this is was not such a great thing?
ANDERSON: I didn’t like it at all. I thought it was terrible, you know? I just thought it was ... it was standing room only on the wharf, you know? It was great to see.
CRAWFORD: It was an attraction when they were swimming past?
CRAWFORD: I'm guessing people took pictures?
ANDERSON: Hold them up and take pictures, I suppose. I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: Cut their stomachs open?
ANDERSON: Yeah, I don’t know. I wasn’t there for that.
CRAWFORD: You were in Paterson Inlet. At that point, you were getting everything on the radio?
ANDERSON: Oh, no. People were coming from over on boats that had been there that day, and we were moored in the same sort of bays and having beers with each other.
CRAWFORD: And what did you hear happened after that? Did the big one ever come back again?
ANDERSON: Never heard anything more, that’s all I know. Yeah so that was that sighting.
CRAWFORD: Any other White Pointers?
ANDERSON: After that, that time I was working on the Pania, so there were more sightings I had prior to that because I was on the Pania which was a 1982. So 1982…
CRAWFORD: So, this is prior to the Stewart Island sharks swimming together?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. When we used to travel from Bluff and go to fish Tewaiwai Bay and stuff like that round here, when we came through the Straits, Ocean Beach freezing works was operating here.
CRAWFORD: Here being?
ANDERSON: Oh, Ocean Beach - that’s Bluff. So, the freezing works discharged offal straight into the ocean.
CRAWFORD: This is a freezing works for lamb?
ANDERSON: Yeah, sheep and that. And it discharged like whole stomachs and that, because you could see these stomachs like with the bladders and that, just bobbing in the water. And the water was red. And every time we used to go past there, we used to get up the front like that and scan for them, look for them. You know look for the White Pointers, because the skipper and everyone said there’s always White Pointers there, and keep a keen eye and that. And I don’t remember how many sightings we had, maybe two or three. But I definitely saw sharks there you know? But big sharks. Seemed like White Pointers. Just on the surface, just cruising around. So that was obviously a real hot-spot for them.
CRAWFORD: And this was when?
CRAWFORD: Was that a one-time event, that you happened to be going through?
ANDERSON: No, no. We’d gone past there 20 times, 30 times. But you had to get good weather to see them. It had to be calm, you know? Like glassy. Because if it’s not glassy you won’t see them. So obviously when it’s glassy and calm, they’ll come up and just sort of cruise on the surface you know?
CRAWFORD: So, sea conditions are an important part of observations for White Pointers?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: For an experienced guy - a guy who spent his life on the water - when it’s calm, how far away can you see these fins? I mean is it 100 metres?
ANDERSON: Yeah. We never got any closer than that to any of them. We never got right on top of them, or anything. We’d just sort of look off, and you could see fins.
CRAWFORD: And it wasn’t any kind of feeding frenzy?
ANDERSON: No, no. Just going like this. And a couple of times, the guys reckoned they saw the guts go down you know? Yeah. So that was a really good hot spot for sharks.
CRAWFORD: And was this known, like I mean when I talk to the commercial guys out of Bluff and I make reference to this, they’ll know what I’m talking about.
ANDERSON: They should do yeah, yeah. Especially the Paua guys yeah. It was definitely a very shark area.
CRAWFORD: Do you have any idea of how long that freezer works ran?
ANDERSON: Oh, no I don’t. Ocean Beach must have closed down. Ocean Beach Freezing Works. And then you know, they could have changed what they were allowed to do to the discharge and that. But at the time it was just like, you know, pretty much everything went straight out the big pipe.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Anymore White Pointer encounters?
ANDERSON: Yeah. And this wasn’t a confirmed sighting, but we were anchored in behind Codfish Island here [northwest coast of Stewart Island], and we used to anchor in there after trawling, clean the fish and all the rest of it. And the crew talked about the White Pointers there in that bay, you know? They were saying that there’s White Pointers here. So, the next trip we went down, I bought myself a big shark hook and a chain and a bit of rope and I was going to catch a White Pointer, you know? So first night we anchored in there, I chucked on a big fish and threw it over the side of the boat and I tied a tin bucket, you know tied a bucket to the rope. And then I tied the rope from there to a winch handle on our trawl winch, you know? And the middle of the night the bucket went Bang, Bang, Bang. And we all ran out and there was nothing there, it had broken free, it had broken the line. I can’t remember what it did, I think it might have taken the hook, broke the chain or broke the rope or something. But then we thought "Oh shit," and we all went back to bed, and then we get up in the morning and steamed out an hour and a half, and went to shoot the trawl gear away, and when the skipper went to undo the brakes on the winch, the brake handle had all got bent because it was just like a stainless steel shaft with a turning handle on it. And it had all got bent sideways like this, and he couldn’t turn it. So, he wasn’t very happy with me about that. And there was a bit of a yelling at me, and then he got his big hammer out and straightened this thing out, and we managed to carry on fishing. But that was the end, we weren’t allowed to play around with trying to catch sharks after that.
CRAWFORD: But you reckon that was a decent sized fish?
ANDERSON: Big fish, yeah.
CRAWFORD: And there are only a handful of fish that could get that big?
ANDERSON: Yeah there’s really only one. Like, we’ve caught heaps of Makos and a Mako wouldn’t part your line like that.
CRAWFORD: You had said that your mates onboard had said there were White Pointers in this bay off Codfish Island?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Was that a bay where it was common that people would clean their fish?
CRAWFORD: Once again, cause and effect. Are the sharks there, and then people come and clean their fish? Or that’s a cleaning place, and it attracts the sharks?
ANDERSON: They’re definitely feeding off of the boats there.
CRAWFORD: For the fishing boats, they’re looking for an island they can get in behind. On the lee side right?
ANDERSON: That's right, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Any other sightings? From you?
ANDERSON: We come across a big Sea Lion one day - a male Sea Lion.
CRAWFORD: Where and when?
ANDERSON: About six miles straight out here [Karitane]. It might not even be that, maybe four miles.
CRAWFORD: Ok, but it’s offshore, by a ways.
ANDERSON: Yeah and we come across this because we’re looking for Dolphins, the charter boat that we do. We've got a swim with Dolphins permit, so we take people swimming with Dolphins. And we’re steaming out there and we’re scanning like that. Nice day, looking real hard. And then saw something over there you know? Drive over there ...
CRAWFORD: Saw something moving or just saw something?
ANDERSON: Something. And we thought, "What's that?" I’m actually the front of the boat cruise, driving the boat, up the rail. And we got to about probably 50 feet away from it, and then I recognized it was a Sea Lion. And it was dead. And it's pretty much whole throat was like, there was a perfect bite you know? Like the perfect round bite, there was no mistaking. It wasn’t nibbled away by a thousand fish, or anything, it was one big bite. And it had taken a bite that would probably be about, you know 20, 30 kilos sort of bite. You know, like a big bite like this. Chunk of flesh. A real big chunk of flesh. And I just looked at it like that and then, the guy's yelling, "What is it? What is it?" you know? And I’m going "Nothing, Nothing."
CRAWFORD: These are your tourists you were going to be putting in the water to swim with the Dolphins?
ANDERSON: Yeah, so we didn’t swim anyone that day.
CRAWFORD: Where and when was that again?
ANDERSON: Not that long ago, probably about five or six years ago.
CRAWFORD: But I mean - you’re out there all the time.
ANDERSON: Yeah, like the amount of time we’re out there and we don’t see them.
CRAWFORD: You don’t see sharks or shark incidences?
ANDERSON: We don’t see White Pointers.
CRAWFORD: That’s what I mean. You don’t see White Pointers or evidence of White Pointers very frequently?
ANDERSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: Any other sightings, indirect or direct.
ANDERSON: Well there was a sighting only last year when we sailed the yacht up to Oamaru and just off Hampden, only two or three miles off Hampden we saw a big fish on the surface, and he was definitely feeding. And he was like turning and turning ...
CRAWFORD: He was busy?
ANDERSON: Yeah. He was busy and I got my camera out and told the crew to drive towards it. But he wasn't very good at driving the boat, and he actually went too fast and pulled the boat out of gear and sort of basically drove right over the top of it, and spooked it - whatever it was doing. So, we never got a picture.
CRAWFORD: But did see any other signs? Did you see blood in the water or anything else?
ANDERSON: Nah, no. Saw nothing at all. And it was really, like I was quite amazed at how quick it turned, and how sharp and you know ... like there was a lot of water splashing off its tail.
CRAWFORD: When you lost sight of it, had it scooted? Like could you tell that it had scooted?
CRAWFORD: Or just no longer there?
ANDERSON: No, no it scooted. We spooked it. And it was just… gone.
CRAWFORD: You saw the tail turn or something?
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah. And then it just went away like that. We got within probably 60 feet, 80 feet of it before it took off.
CRAWFORD: Oh really? So it took off when you were 60 feet ...
ANDERSON: As soon as he realized we were there. Normally we were seeing animals and that, we would just kind of coast up to them or keep some distance so we don’t actually get photos or whatever.
CRAWFORD: But the fact that it would get spooked off whatever it was doing ... Because you said that animal was busy doing something.
CRAWFORD: And you felt it was your closing the distance that caused that animal to flee?
ANDERSON: Yeah. We definitely spooked him, and then he took off. So I didn’t get a good confirmed sighting of that one, but the fin definitely looked White Pointery to me.
CRAWFORD: You’ve seen them before ...
ANDERSON: Yeah, it was quite a big fin. And you know there was approximately 6 to 8 feet between the fins.
CRAWFORD: And how far offshore?
ANDERSON: About two miles, I suppose.
ANDERSON: 20 fathoms.
CRAWFORD: Alright, anything else?
ANDERSON: Nah that’s it.
CRAWFORD: So, in your 50 years on the water, you have seen White Pointers on roughly 5 different occasions, right?
CRAWFORD: That’s about once a decade. For somebody who’s out there a lot.
ANDERSON: Yeah. It’s not much. It’s not very much at all.
CRAWFORD: Throughout the whole period, were there times
when there seemed to be more of them?
ANDERSON: Oh, I think there was more. There was more evidence of them earlier than there is now, I think.
CRAWFORD: Like the first 25 years, compared to the last 25 years?
Copyright © 2017 Allan Anderson and Steve Crawford