Experience: Commercial Fisherman, Scuba Diver
Regions: Otago, Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Rakiura/Stewart Island
Interview Location: Port Chalmers, NZ
Interview Date: 15 November 2015
Post Date: 17 May 2017; Copyright © 2017 Ate Heineman and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL WATERS
CRAWFORD: Where did you grow up?
CRAWFORD: At what point did you start spending substantial time around coastal waters in New Zealand?
HEINEMAN: Probably from about the age of 16 when I started going out on fishing boats.
CRAWFORD: And were you doing that for fun, or was it a job for you?
HEINEMAN: I was doing it for work experience, for the start.
CRAWFORD: And was that Port Chalmers?
CRAWFORD: How did you know to come here to Port Chalmers?
HEINEMAN: I decided I wanted to take up fishing as a career.
CRAWFORDF: At the ripe age of 16?
CRAWFORD: Did you have family in Port Chalmers at the time?
HEINEMAN: No, no. My father brought me up. I had no transport of my own. And I boarded in a hotel for the first two years, approximately. And then moved into a house with a few other guys.
CRAWFORD: You started working on other people's boats for work experience - what kind of fishing were you doing then?
HEINEMAN: Trawling for a start. I came up the school holidays and did a bit of that. Then I got offered a job later in the year which I took up.
CRAWFORD: By another trawlerman?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Initially crayfishing and trawling.
CRAWFORD: What kind of region, generally?
HEINEMAN: Round the Otago area.
CRAWFORD: Within a days' boating?
CRAWFORD: What would bottom trawlers in this region typically target?
HEINEMAN: Flats, Soles and Flounders.
CRAWFORD: You did that for a while, and what happened next?
HEINEMAN: I sort of drifted from one boat to another, one way or another. Ended up spending a few years with an old guy that spent a lot of time making sure I knew what was happening. Spending a lot of time teaching me.
CRAWFORD: What was his name?
HEINEMAN: Charlie McFarlane. And from there I went and worked for a somewhat younger guy, where the financial rewards were a wee bit better. And Charlie was retiring, and it was time for me to move on.
CRAWFORD: And at this point these were two-man, three-man operations?
HEINEMAN: Just two-man operations.
CRAWFORD: Skipper and a mate?
CRAWFORD: Ok, you started crewing with this other fellow, trawling and crayfishing still?
CRAWFORD: Same type of region?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, exactly the same area.
CRAWFORD: What was the next major change in your fishing practice?
HEINEMAN: In my early 20s, I started running boats for other owners.
CRAWFORD: Same region, same fisheries, but you were a skipper rather than a crew mate?
CRAWFORD: How long did that last, roughly?
HEINEMAN: Must have been four or five years probably.
CRAWFORD: Maybe about until your 30s?
HEINEMAN: Before that.
CRAWFORD: Ok, still in your 20s. Then what changed?
HEINEMAN: I bought a boat on my own account.
CRAWFORD: A trawler?
CRAWFORD: It was a boat from Port Chalmers or…
HEINEMAN: Yeah from Port Chalmers. And yeah, trawled and crayfished.
CRAWFORD: How old were you when you got the boat?
HEINEMAN: I think 27, or something like that.
CRAWFORD: And the boat that you bought, what was it?
HEINEMAN: The Craiglea It was 40 feet.
CRAWFORD: How long did you fish that vessel for?
HEINEMAN: 12 years.
CRAWFORD: Then what?
HEINEMAN: I sold that, and bought the Sanspeur.
CRAWFORD: How big was the Sanspeur?
HEINEMAN: It was 4 feet longer I think, but a considerably bigger boat.
CRAWFORD: Bigger in terms of the hold, bigger in terms of …
HEINEMAN: Yeah, the bulk of boat.
CRAWFORD: And because of its size, did you end up taking that boat further afield?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah. We did a trip to Westland for Tuna fishing in the early part, while the quota system was finding its feet I suppose.
CRAWFORD: The mid-80s?
HEINEMAN: 87, I think that it was. The year the quota system came in was when I bought the Sanspeur, and later that year we went to Westland for Tuna fishing because we had run out of quota. And the whole system was put into place before it was working properly.
CRAWFORD: Where is that Tuna fishery based out of?
CRAWFORD: And it was a seasonal fishery, right?
HEINEMAN: That’s right, yeah. We left here just after New Year and came back at Easter time. So, it was a summer fishery.
CRAWFORD: Was that a one off or did you do that on an annual basis?
HEINEMAN: No, no. We just did the one year. It was a lot of fun, but we didn’t make too much money.
CRAWFORD: Then you brought the Sanspeur back to Port Chalmers, back to trawling and crayfishing?
HEINEMAN: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: What kind of range now, with this bigger boat?
CRAWFORD: Where’s Slope Point?
HEINEMAN: Slope Point is east of Bluff - that’s the bottom end of the Area 3 quota area.
CRAWFORD: That was a quota margin that kind of defined where you fished?
HEINEMAN: It did a little bit yeah.
CRAWFORD: But still greatly expanded your range. These were these overnight trips then?
HEINEMAN: They’re up to four or five days.
CRAWFORD: Bigger boats, bigger capacity, bigger range, longer time?
CRAWFORD: Was there any change in your fishing practice in terms of gear, or target species, or anything else?
HEINEMAN: The gear was substantially the same, but a little bit bigger because we had some more horsepower, and that sort of thing. But no, it was substantially the same.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That carries on till when?
HEINEMAN: We sold the Sanspeur about four years ago, or something like that. We were going to give it a major overhaul which included a new engine and other things. And then decided to change boats instead.
CRAWFORD: And that was about four years ago?
CRAWFORD: And what boat did you buy?
HEINEMAN: We bought the Echo, which was a very similar boat to the Sanspeur. And it was built in 91, I think.
CRAWFORD: Pretty much same capacity?
HEINEMAN: We increased the hold capacity, but the same catching capacity.
CRAWFORD: Ok. So you’ve been fishing approximately 50 years - half a century.
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Although I certainly slowed down. I’m not on the boat anywhere near as much as I used to be. In fact, the last four years or something like that, I’ve only done a few weeks most years. I mean this year I’ve only done eight to ten days.
CRAWFORD: The South end of the South Island, you talked about going to the edge of the quota area.
HEINEMAN:I’ve only fished up into Tewaiwai Bay on a very sort of occasional basis.
CRAWFORD: What other time would you have spent on or in the water in this region though. Along the South end of the Island, in the straits or around Stewart Island?
HEINEMAN: Stewart Island has been a recreational area for me for probably the last 40 odd years. We did family holidays, Christmas time. I think we had 22 Christmas trips out of 25.
CRAWFORD: Would you boat down for those trips?
HEINEMAN: We took our fishing boat down with the family and friends, and later on I bought a recreational boat that I took down.
CRAWFORD: A power boat?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. And in between times we did trips across there on other boats as well. With friends or whatever, and even little outboard boats. Go across for the weekend or whatever.
HEINEMAN: Most of the time, but we also had numerous trips to Pegasus, and one or two round to the West side.
CRAWFORD: And these were mostly summer trips?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. But there was the odd winter trip, too. But not so much on the family trips. In the winter one year, we went for two weeks, just on a boy’s trip. I took the crew and a couple of mates down - and one of the other fisherman from here did the same, when we finished our crayfish quota early and had a couple of free weeks to fill in. So we went and did that.
CRAWFORD: This recreational fishing? Codfishing?
CRAWFORD: OK. I think you’ve also done a lot of diving?
HEINEMAN: Recreationally, mostly. And a little bit of light commercial with a cobber [friend] of mine.
CRAWFORD: Alright, let’s go back to that, because that kind of experience, it’s parallel to what you’re doing in the commercial fishery. But it’s still highly relevant experience. When did you start diving recreationally and/or semi-commercially?
HEINEMAN: I was in my 20s. yeah. About the same time as I bought the Craiglea. It may have been a year or two earlier, I’m not sure.
CRAWFORD: And what was the motivation for diving - just for fun?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Initially I borrowed some gear and took some debris off a propeller - off my own propeller. Instead of employing somebody else to do it, I decided to have a go myself. And then it grew from there.
CRAWFORD: Where would you go diving?
HEINEMAN: I’ve dived all over the place, basically.
CRAWFORD: Where are the areas that you would go the most?
CRAWFORD: Recreational diving, sight-seeing?
HEINEMAN: Basically, yeah. I had a go at underwater photography, wasn’t much good at that.
CRAWFORD: And when you were diving recreationally, was this something that you would do only in the summer time?
HEINEMAN: No. I’d do it whenever the opportunity arose, for a long time. If it was winter or summer, it didn’t make much difference.
CRAWFORD: And when you were diving, how frequently might you go diving? Once a month? Once a week?
HEINEMAN: When I was diving… at the peak of it I would have been logging over 100 dives a year.
CRAWFORD: Wow. And this is scuba-diving now?
CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any free-diving?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, a little bit.
CRAWFORD: Any spearfishing of any kind?
HEINEMAN: Did some spearfishing as well.
CRAWFORD: Pretty much a smattering of this and that, but you were an early scuba-diver. I mean relative to a bunch of other guys, you got in fairly early.
HEINEMAN: Yeah, but I wasn’t at the stage where I had to make my own equipment or anything like that, no. The generation before me. Those guys were making their own wetsuits, and things like that because you just couldn’t buy them off the shelf, or they were too expensive. Yeah. I followed after that.
CRAWFORD: It started out as a commercial thing just doing some repairs on your boat, and ended up being more of a passion?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah. It was certainly a passion for a long time, and still is. I still enjoy hopping in the water and getting a feed of Scallops or Crayfish or whatever.
CRAWFORD: You’re still scuba-diving to this day?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Not as much as I used to, by any means.
CRAWFORD: How much might you be diving now? Roughly.
HEINEMAN: Probably 10 dives a year.
CRAWFORD: Good on you man. I don’t know too many people like you.
2. EXPOSURE TO MĀORI/LOCAL/SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS
CRAWFORD: What other types of local people around here [Port Chalmers] would be knowledgeable about White Pointers?
HEINEMAN: John Malcolm did the nets.
CRAWFORD: For the DCC [Dunedin City Council]?
HEINEMAN: The DCC for a good number of years. And Graeme Fraser did them too. But I don’t think Graeme ever caught sharks like John did.
CRAWFORD: When you think about local people who are Māori who …
HEINEMAN: Not really no, I gave one name there earlier of a guy that I know, knows a lot of Māori history from around Otakou. Edward Allison. I don’t think Edward would have much in the way of first-hand experience, but certainly would have heard the stories and that sort of thing.
CRAWFORD: In terms of science people, who do you know who would be a science person that would know about White Pointers around the Otago Peninsula, Stewart Island, Southland in general?
HEINEMAN: I’ve never really thought of that very much.
CRAWFORD: Have you interacted with science people?
HEINEMAN: Not really.
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: Do you remember the first time you ever heard about or saw a White Pointer?
HEINEMAN: I don’t recall exactly when I first heard of it. I think I always thought they were always there, but certainly when they started putting shark nets off St. Kilda and St. Clair I became more aware of the fact that they’re around and there had been a couple of fatalities. One surfing, and one snorkeling, I believe. They were local events that attracted a lot of media attention.
CRAWFORD: But you were a commercial fisherman, you were working around other fisherman - on the water, dealing with fish all the time. Had you even seen a White Pointer in the wild?
HEINEMAN: I have when I’ve been scuba-diving. But I don’t recall ever seeing one when I’ve been trawling or crayfishing.
CRAWFORD: As you explained to me before, your chances as a trawlerman of seeing a White Pointer were pretty slim. Based on what you were doing? With your gear on the bottom?
HEINEMAN: And we were moving all the time.
CRAWFORD: When you were crayfishing. How do you crayfish commercially?
HEINEMAN: Oh, setting pots on the appropriate rocky areas, and going back the next day and pulling those pots.
CRAWFORD: What kind of depths?
HEINEMAN: We’d basically fish from probably 15 to 20 metres. out to 50 to 70 metres.
CRAWFORD: Similar to codpotting, in terms of putting down a framed net, where the animals are getting trapped?
HEINEMAN: But they don’t come up with the same frenzied activity that a codpot does.
CRAWFORD: Frenzied activity, in terms of what?
HEINEMAN: Well, fish that are splashing around.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever see any White Pointers around when you were crayfishing?
HEINEMAN: Not that I recall.
CRAWFORD: Anybody else? Any of the crayfisherman?
HEINEMAN: I don’t know. I do recall a Basking Shark getting tangled up in Crayfish pots one year.
CRAWFORD: In the rigging? In the line?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, in the craypot lines, yeah. Must have been going through a bit of slack rope, perhaps. It definitely was a Basking Shark. I’ve got photos of it.
CRAWFORD: How frequently would you have seen Basking Sharks in these waters?
HEINEMAN: Very few. I haven’t seen one for years.
CRAWFORD: How many times do you figure you’ve seen a Basking Shark out of your 50 years? Roughly.
HEINEMAN: Maybe six.
CRAWFORD: Basking Shark, White Pointer - one very large shark of one kind, and another very large shark of another kind.
HEINEMAN: It depends how big a fright you get when you see it.
CRAWFORD: That’s right. When you have seen Basking Sharks in the wild, how do you recognise them as being different from White Pointers?
HEINEMAN: Oh well, the Basking Shark that we encountered that day was considerably bigger lengthwise than any White Pointer I would expect to be able to find. Didn’t have the girth of a White Pointer. It didn’t have the teeth of a White Pointer. And it had a totally different shaped tail. It was a different animal all together.
CRAWFORD: What do you mean by ‘didn’t have the girth’?
HEINEMAN: A White Pointer is a pretty solid sort of animal. The Basking Shark that we saw, that we caught, was 18 feet long. If that had been a White Pointer that would have probably been an animal that weighed 4 tonne or something like that. Whereas that Basking Shark, it wouldn’t have weighed half of that.
CRAWFORD: More cigar-shaped?
Definitely. And a different colour. The Basking Shark was a more uniform grey colouring, and the White Pointer comes out with splotchy white colours.
CRAWFORD: One of the things that’s come up in some of the interviews is a reported shark in the Otago Peninsula region called KZ-7. Have you heard about this fish?
HEINEMAN: I may have done, I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: Ok. But getting back to your experience in terms of fishing, you haven’t seen any White Pointers when you were trawling?
HEINEMAN: I don’t recall seeing any. I couldn’t blanket and say no. We have seen Blue Sharks. And Makos.
CRAWFORD: Just observation, or interacting with your boat or your gear when you were fishing?
HEINEMAN: Blue Sharks are quite common. Particularly swim along the edges of tide lines, and things like that. We’ve seen quite a few of those. And the Makos less common. I’ve seen some Blue Sharks when I’ve been diving as well, but the numbers of the Blue Sharks we were seeing at times was quite frightening and you sort of think, “They’re like a pack of dogs hanging round,” you know? One dog you don’t become too concerned about, but when there’s six or seven dogs circling you, you think, “A guy might be a bit vulnerable here.” And it was the same with the Blue Sharks.
CRAWFORD: When you did see the Blue Sharks and the Makos, did you feel that they were responding to what you were doing as a fisherman, or you just happened to see them?
HEINEMAN: No, no. We just happened to see them.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the old-timers, the guys who were here and had a lifetime of experience when you were a kid, did they ever tell you anything or give you warnings about White Pointers, or say “This happens at this time of year" - that kind of thing?
HEINEMAN: Not too much. Laurence Waters was a guy that always sort of talked about those sorts of things. He paid a lot of attention to it.
CRAWFORD: And do you remember anything that Laurence might have said about White Pointers in particular?
HEINEMAN: Not in particular. No.
CRAWFORD: You’ve been a Port Chalmers fisherman for a long time. What, if anything, do you know about White Pointers in the Otago Harbour?
HEINEMAN: They’ve been seen here, but I personally don’t recall seeing any.
CRAWFORD: And where have other people seen them?
HEINEMAN: Well I know that they caught them just north of the Fisherman’s wharf, there’s been a couple there. Some of the old guys used to shark hooks for them with oil drums as floats, sort of thing. And there used to be quite a few around Otago Heads, down around Taiaroa Heads I believe, where Otakou Fisheries had their offal dumped. There was a reputation for them being there. But no, I don’t recall seeing any myself, but there was certainly a reputation for them hanging around that area.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Can you to point that out on the chart please?
HEINEMAN: The offal dump would be about there. Just inside that [mark on the chart].
CRAWFORD: And what type of waste was it dumping out?
HEINEMAN: Waste from the fish factory.
CRAWFORD: I must be missing something because when I went out there, I didn’t see any waste dump chutes or anything.
HEINEMAN: It hasn’t been there for a lot of years.
CRAWFORD: Was it in operation when you came to Port Chalmers as a 16-year-old?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah. There was a fish factory, it had recently closed down at Otakou. When I say recently closed down, when I started fishing, it had recently closed down. And they used to dump their offal there at Taiaroa Head. And they built a new factory in Dunedin, and it was still dumping offal, Otakou fisheries was still dumping offal out there.
CRAWFORD: Was this at a processing plant or at a dumping facility?
HEINEMAN: It was just a dump. It went straight over the cliff and into the sea. The truck just backed up and dumped the offal into the sea.
CRAWFORD: And that operation shut down when?
HEINEMAN: I’m guessing probably sometime in the late 70s I think. I’m guessing.
CRAWFORD: And do you think that White Pointers, sharks in general, but White Pointers specifically would have responded to that offal dump?
HEINEMAN: I didn’t have any incidents of it myself, but I did hear stories.
CRAWFORD: What kind of stories did you hear?
HEINEMAN: Well, that the sharks hung around that area, yeah.
CRAWFORD: What about the Seals? Some people say that there are more sharks along the Otago Peninsula than elsewhere, and some people have said that perhaps it’s got something to do with the Seals and pupping around here - that kind of thing.
HEINEMAN: Quite possible. I mean we’ve got a Seal colony there, and there. There’s another one, there’s Seals all along here. Taiaroa Heads has got a lot of young Seals there.
CRAWFORD: You’ve been around these waters for a bit, have you ever seen a Seal taken by a shark around the Peninsula?
HEINEMAN: No, not physically being taken, not that I recall. But I have seen some pretty nasty gashes on the Seals.
CRAWFORD: Have you?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Whether that has been caused by a shark or not, I couldn’t say.
CRAWFORD: Have you seen carcasses, Seal carcasses floating around?
HEINEMAN: Have seen the odd one.
CRAWFORD: Bits and pieces or …
HEINEMAN: More or less intact carcasses. with big scars on them. I’ve seen a couple like that. But not many.
CRAWFORD: Do you ever get any whale carcasses around here [Otago Peninsula]?
HEINEMAN: Not that I recall. I’ve seen one at Stewart Island. But I don’t recall seeing one up this side of the coast.
CRAWFORD: Where around Stewart Island did you see it?
HEINEMAN: I saw one in Little Glory Bay.
CRAWFORD: A relatively fresh carcass, or relatively old?
HEINEMAN: It was starting to smell pretty bad. But yeah.
CRAWFORD: Sharks around it?
HEINEMAN: Not when we were there, I don’t think. Nah I didn’t see any.
CRAWFORD: Getting back to Otago Harbour, has anybody you know seen a White Pointer in Otago Harbour?
CRAWFORD: The thing that always jumps out to me about this, is that people have caught White Pointers in Otago Harbour, but with the number of people that live on both sides of the harbour, and the way that the roads run directly along the coastline, there are a lot of eyes watching that harbour almost every hour of every day.
HEINEMAN: As soon as there’s a whale in the area, there are cars parked everywhere watching.
CRAWFORD: Have there been whales coming right into the Otago Harbour?
HEINEMAN: We had a Southern Right Whale come in.
CRAWFORD: Well that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe a little bit more extreme, because all I’m talking about you know is a fin. But a shark fin is pretty … under some circumstances it can be quite obvious, and with that number of people, if there was a big shark fin in the harbour, people would do the same kind of thing. They would pull over, they would have a look and people would talk.
HEINEMAN: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: So it was then, and it’s still possible that the White Pointers are - on occasion, at least - coming into Otago Harbour. But if they weren’t seen then, there’s no reason to expect that we would see them now either.
CRAWFORD: And I realize it’s a different harbour now with the cruise ships and all the rest of it, compared to back in the day.
HEINEMAN: It’s probably a cleaner harbour today than what it was, because the water was seen as a dumping ground for everything in the old days.
CRAWFORD: And do you think that would have a positive or negative effect on White Pointers being in the harbour?
HEINEMAN: Well I think if there is a lot of offal being dumped in the water, there’s a chance that they may start scavenging a little bit more. I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: Have you even seen sharks following your boat?
HEINEMAN: Not that I recall.
CRAWFORD: Have the other guys ever talked about having sharks following their fishing boats?
HEINEMAN: Doesn’t happen very often, and they don’t talk about it much.
CRAWFORD: And when it did happen, was it codpotters that were cleaning?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, our trawlers are moving away all the time, so if the sharks are feeding on debris coming off a trawler, the trawlers moving away from that. And it’s making a lot of noise too - like propellers and all that going, so the shark may well hang, but if he’s there, hanging back quite some distance …
CRAWFORD: Not just the line of sight, not just the noise, but you’re also busy working with your gear, you’re focused on deck.
HEINEMAN: That’s right. But then so is the fisherman that’s cleaning his catch, he’s concentrating on what he’s doing too. So the codboats probably tend to lay there and clean up - more so than a trawler.
CRAWFORD: Right. In this region, from the Nuggets up to Karitane at least, maybe Timaru. Any places that you have heard, that White Pointers are perhaps more abundant, or have been seen more frequently than others?
HEINEMAN: Not really. As I say, we have had a few caught, and they were seen at the beaches in Dunedin, and probably Brighton for a while. But whether that’s because they are the popular beaches where there’s a lot more people that see what’s going on?
CRAWFORD: Well now, you’ve brought up something on my list of things to check. Just offshore across is Green Island, right?
CRAWFORD: I was told that they had some type of offal dump there as well and it ran for a few years. And that in general the number of sharks that were seen around there, went right through the roof. I haven’t done my homework on this yet, so I can’t tell you any more about this but it only ran for a while and then they shut it down. Did you hear anything about that?
HEINEMAN: No. Unless it was something to do with the sewer outlet there. There was industrial waste going through there too at one stage. So it may have been that.
CRAWFORD: More than one thing.
HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Ok. I’ll do my homework on that.
HEINEMAN: Yeah, because there is an outlet, it’s more industrial waste I think, south of Blackhead. The Waldronville outlet. I believe it’s industrial waste. So, it could have been going through there.
CRAWFORD: Could it have been a freezer works or something?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, well it could well have been a freezing works. It could have been. It’s something I know nothing about.
CRAWFORD: In general, through your career, was there ever any discussion about migrations or seasonality of White Pointers that you recall? Did anybody talk about that?
HEINEMAN: Not in the early days, no. You heard stories from old people and older guys about sharks hanging around when they were Sealing and whaling. But you know, it was probably stories that were passed down, because there wasn’t too many of those old guys ever Sealing or whaling.
CRAWFORD: But that’s what I mean about the stories going across generations, right? Things are known, and sometimes things get known and there’s such an importance placed on them that they’re told to the kids “Now I’m going to tell you something important. You make sure you listen right?” As opposed to the regular kind of fish stories …
HEINEMAN: As far as all that’s concerned I was probably a little bit unfortunate in the respect that I didn’t come from a fishing family. I didn’t have that.
CRAWFORD: Fair enough. But you still said that you had some old guys that took you under their wing. It was like family in that regard.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the distribution and abundance of New Zealand White Pointers, what do you think is the biggest mystery that we need to know more about?
HEINEMAN: Migratory patterns.
CRAWFORD: Why do you say that?
HEINEMAN: Well we know, particularly this year about the attacks in Australia, and some of those guys are saying the cage operations here could be affecting those fish that migrated from here to over there. Maybe they’re the same fish. Maybe they’re not.
CRAWFORD: You are the first person to bring that up.
HEINEMAN: Well, I think along with migratory patterns, stock numbers are just as important. If you haven’t got a handle on how big the stock is, the migratory thing is almost irrelevant. If you have just say a 1000 fish and you found out that only 20 migrate, it’s only a small percentage of your stock that is migrating. But if you think that there’s 1000 fish, but 800 migrate it’s a totally different scenario isn’t it? You may be able to work out why these fish are sitting here, why they’re so common out off Paterson Inlet.
CRAWFORD: Yes. If they are actually more common there. Because they may be equally abundant down here in the South of Titi Islands or over here.
HEINEMAN: And it may be that they’re not much more abundant here, it’s just that it’s a relatively sheltered area where they are and they’re seen more often because of it.
CRAWFORD: That is a very good point.
4. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - DIRECT EXPERIENCES
CRAWFORD: Let’s talk about you diving. How many times have you seen White Pointers while diving?
HEINEMAN: Only once that I’m positive about.
CRAWFORD: Roughly when was this? 80s? 90s?
HEINEMAN: Yeah no, it was relatively recently. Six, eight years ago.
CRAWFORD: Where was it?
HEINEMAN: It was at Pegasus at Stewart Island. Port Pegasus.
CRAWFORD: What happened?
HEINEMAN: I was looking around for Scallops. Diving a bit deeper for Scallops than I normally do. Just looking around to see as much about where they’re might be Scallops, and looking for different areas, rather than actually looking for a feed. But I was picking a feed up as I was going.
CRAWFORD: Roughly what depth?
HEINEMAN: I was probably in about 40 feet of water. And diving on my own. And had a guy in a dinghy hanging around above me. But nobody else in the water. And a shark just cruised past, didn’t appear to take any notice of me. Came up from behind, and just swum past.
HEINEMAN: No, this guy just swam past, and I never saw him again.
CRAWFORD: So, this was a Level 2 swim-by?
CRAWFORD: You said it came up from behind you, so you don’t even know if it went out of its way, or whether you happened to be on its way when it was coming past.
HEINEMAN: I’ve got no idea.
CRAWFORD: I would imagine it kind of surprises to see something that big in the first place.
HEINEMAN: Oh, very surprised and initially curious - was my initial reaction. It didn’t appear to threaten me in any way. And I carried on and picked up a couple more scallops, and then thought “To hell with it, I’m getting out of here.”
CRAWFORD: You said that there was a guy in a dinghy on the surface. Was he reasonably close to you when this happened?
CRAWFORD: Did he see anything?
CRAWFORD: This all happened completely without the guy on the surface even knowing that the fish was there?
HEINEMAN: That’s right. But he knew from my tone of voice to come and pick me up quite quickly.
CRAWFORD: The guy in the dinghy didn’t see the shark. You were in 40 feet of water, but I’m assuming the water was fairly clear.
HEINEMAN: Oh, no. You wouldn’t have been able to see 40 feet.
CRAWFORD: No? Ok, so that was an unfair reasoning on my part? But the point is, there could be sharks in coastal waters all over the place - sharks that people just don’t see. Several fisherman have brought that point up - when you’re on the deck of a boat, you’re limited in what you can see in the water.
HEINEMAN: Most of the time you can’t see very far under the water at all. Right beside the boat, yeah, you’ll see Muttonbirds diving and that sort of thing.
CRAWFORD: And if it’s calm …
HEINEMAN: You can see a little bit more.
CRAWFORD: You can see some shadows moving around and stuff?
HEINEMAN: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: If it’s windy, which it often is, if the currents are moving fast, the tides are doing their thing, it’s a little cloudy or stormy or whatever.
HEINEMAN: A lot of the time you wouldn’t see anything that’s any more than a metre under the water.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Getting back to you, after seeing the White Pointer when you were scuba-diving for Scallops …
HEINEMAN: Yeah. I felt quite vulnerable on the surface with my feet hanging down.
CRAWFORD: That’s an interesting thing too, because the circumstances under which people see these fish … It’s different if you’re a Pāua diver, when you’re free-diving, right? You’re at the surface, grabbing your breath, then going down for you know, a minute, a minute and a half or whatever. As opposed to a scuba-diver, where you’re down there for longer - you’re not bouncing up and down so much?
HEINEMAN: And have a lot more time to study it.
CRAWFORD: What do you remember when you did study it? What do you remember of the shark?
HEINEMAN: The colouring was the first thing. And it was swimming with its mouth sort of open a bit. And all these teeth.
CRAWFORD: All the teeth, but not … the teeth weren’t jutting out or anything.
HEINEMAN: No, no. They were just in its mouth. He didn’t have his mouth open and his lips curled back.
CRAWFORD: Was the mouth moving at all?
HEINEMAN: Not that I recall.
CRAWFORD: Just casual?
HEINEMAN: And the eye. The eye was something that perhaps I concentrated on. I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: If he came from behind you, would you have seen …
HEINEMAN: When I saw him, he was abreast of me. His head was abreast to my head.
CRAWFORD: You looked over?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. I don’t know what made me look out there, perhaps I was looking backwards or forwards, and I would have been looking to see where there were Scallops.
CRAWFORD: Maybe saw a shadow, or who knows what?
HEINEMAN: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: You said something about colouration?
HEINEMAN: You see the white coming up the side of it, and the speckle-ness of where it meets the grey, sort of thing.
CRAWFORD: I know it’s difficult to estimate size - but if you had to guess, what would you guess?
HEINEMAN: I would have said he was three, perhaps four metres. But how much of that is excitement? I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: It’s the same with everybody. Male or female? Do you remember?
HEINEMAN: No. I don’t, no.
CRAWFORD: And then it was gone, leisurely?
CRAWFORD: No change in …
HEINEMAN: No change in the swimming that I noticed, or anything like that. Yeah, the whole thing seemed to be very leisurely. And that’s why initially I didn’t feel threatened.
CRAWFORD: Just when you were up top …
HEINEMAN: After I sort of carried on for another 30 seconds or whatever it was, I just kept thinking about this thing and making myself more paranoid, I suppose.
CRAWFORD: It’s entirely understandable that anyone in the wild … you feel vulnerable when you’re in the water and a larger animal comes around. Hooker’s Sea Lion … as a matter of fact, I’ve had Pāua divers who have said “Between a White Pointer and a Hooker’s Sea Lion, I’ll take the White Pointer." Because they have seen some of the shark swim-by’s and didn’t feel threatened. I think the point that they were trying to make was not that they didn’t feel any less vulnerable with a White Pointer, it’s just that a Sea Lion - when it’s decided that you are it’s play thing - they are massive as well, they can be vicious, and they are entirely intimidating. Like the heads on them are this big, right?
HEINEMAN: I know. I recall one day when we were diving at Stewart Island with a Hooker’s Sea Lion in the area. And he’s sitting above Bryan Scott who was in the water with me. And the Sea Lion has his mouth open over the back of Bryan’s head, just sitting there trying to catch the bubbles. I went over to Bryan and said “Let’s get out of here.” Then we were talking about it on the surface he said “I’m thinking about calling the dive off.” And then I told him why I called it off, and he said “Oh, was he doing it to me too?” Obviously, he’d been doing the same thing to me, and I couldn’t see it. I’d only seen him doing it to Bryan.
CRAWFORD: The Sea Lion was floating above you, and he was mouthing your bubbles?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. But he had his mouth open over the top of our heads. All he had to do was close it. and he’d crush your head.
CRAWFORD: Holy shit.
HEINEMAN: But he never attacked.
CRAWFORD: Alright. Ok, then. Anything else - specifically in the South, Southland coast and the Stewart Island region, any other shark stories that you’ve heard of?
HEINEMAN: We did see another one, one day when we were round getting a fed of Blue Cod. We started losing fish on the way up.
CRAWFORD: This was recreational fishing?
CRAWFORD: Were you jigging or what?
HEINEMAN: Oh, just rod fishing of the back of the boat. And we started losing fish, and one might have come up, a couple might have come up, cut in half and that sort of thing. And next thing one swam across the back of the boat. It was, we sort of thought about the same size three to four metres.
CRAWFORD: You had a fish on, you were reeling it in. Did you get the feeling that the White Pointer took it?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Definitely.
CRAWFORD: When you were fishing, was that something that was relatively rare, or was it happening a fair bit?
HEINEMAN: No, it doesn’t happen a lot. No. That was off Port Adventure, at the big reef.
CRAWFORD: And you said that the shark swam …
HEINEMAN: Across the back of the boat. Quite aggressive sort of behaviour. Whether it was aggressive, I don’t know but …
CRAWFORD: Making a splash?
CRAWFORD: Is that when he had a fish that was on the line in his mouth, that he was doing this behaviour?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, he didn’t roll over. He just… and targeting other fish that some of the others were pulling up at the same time. It wasn’t just satisfied with the one. He wanted another one as well.
CRAWFORD: How did you guys respond? I mean did you just pull up the lines?
HEINEMAN: Well, we were starting to lose fish and. you know. they were coming up chopped in half. So we didn’t see any point staying there.
CRAWFORD: Did you move to a different location? Do you remember?
HEINEMAN: I don’t recall now but I think we just moved away, and probably had enough fish. We were only looking for tea. So we certainly weren’t looking for numbers of fish.
CRAWFORD: And to be clear, you didn’t know it was a White Pointer when you brought up the half fish?
HEINEMAN: Well, we didn’t expect until we saw him.
CRAWFORD: Right, but then you definitely see a White Pointer right there. I think most people would think that’s reasonable grounds to say that the half fish that you had was the result of this animal.
HEINEMAN: That’s what we put it down to.
CRAWFORD: Fair enough. The nature of the cut, was it a clean cut or a ragged cut, do you remember?
HEINEMAN: It was reasonably ragged.
5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS
CRAWFORD: You’re a reasonably seasoned guy, and you’ve been involved in a bunch of different things including sitting on national panels, doing things at a much bigger level, not just your specific fishing area. When you think about White Pointers now in New Zealand coastal waters, what are the regions that you’ve heard where they are most frequent?
HEINEMAN: Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands.
CRAWFORD: A lot of people talk about them out at the Chatham Islands?
HEINEMAN: There used to be a lot of stories about them told in Chatham too, around the whaling station. And it would follow through if they were in Tory Channel hanging around a whaling station. They were probably at Great Barrier as well. And that’s just geographically much further away. and you haven’t got the same kind of stories.
CRAWFORD: Let’s go back very briefly to the Chatham Islands. What kind of interactions, when you heard about them? Was it just the people saw them, or there were interactions with people, or fisherman told stories or what?
HEINEMAN: The stories I hear come from fishing.
CRAWFORD: And would they have been codpotters or what kind of fisherman would they have been?
CRAWFORD: Yeah? What would the crayfisherman have said?
HEINEMAN: They’ve seen sharks, yeah. I know that they were out at Star Keys and places like that.
CRAWFORD: And they saw White Pointers?
CRAWFORD: That’s an important observation, because you’re a crayfisherman and you don’t see them here.
HEINEMAN: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: Any interactions, or just observations from the crayfisherman?
HEINEMAN: Well, I know that some of the Pāua divers felt at risk.
CRAWFORD: Yes, that’s different though. Because you’re now talking about guys that are in the water, they’re free-diving. To your knowledge have there been any interactions, any direct interactions with Pāua divers at the Chathams?
HEINEMAN: No, I just recall hearing them talking if they’d seen them, or whatever. I don’t recall the details.
CRAWFORD: Do you figure that there’s a connection, that the animals from Stewart Island go over to the Chatham Islands, the ones at the Chatham Islands come here?
HEINEMAN: I’d be surprised if they don’t. I’d be very surprised if they’re two unique stocks.
CRAWFORD: And why would you say that?
HEINEMAN: I don’t know a lot about them. But I think they’re an animal that covers a lot of ground, and I would be very surprised if they don’t intermix.
CRAWFORD: Any place else around New Zealand where you can think of, where people have said that there’s a lot of White Pointers there.
HEINEMAN: Well, I know that some of the guys who used to longline out off the Hokatika Trench had seen them there as well.
CRAWFORD: Where is that?
HEINEMAN: That’s south of Greymouth.
CRAWFORD: So Westland?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. South Westland.
CRAWFORD: What do you figure might have attracted White Pointers up there?
HEINEMAN: It appears that longliners attract sharks for some reason, whether it’s fish thrashing around or whatever it is, I don’t know. But they have seen them.
CRAWFORD: That’s a good point. In general has longlining declined over the past decades. Used to be more common than it is now.
CRAWFORD: And from a commercial fisheries perspective, why is that?
HEINEMAN: The quota system has a lot to do with it. You know, we’ve got a finite number of fish, a tonnage of fish we’re allowed to catch. So generally speaking, nearly every fishery has decreased. We’ve got less boats in just about every fishery.
CRAWFORD: And is there anything else, maybe in terms of the efficiency of the gear, or anything else that would have made the longlining fishery decline over time?
HEINEMAN: I don’t think so. I think longlining has become much more efficient than it used to be. They’ve got automatic baiting gear, and all sorts of things. There’s still guys make a good living out of longlining at times. And they can certainly work a lot more gear than they used to. The boats are better. And I don’t think there’s any one reason, if the fish gets caught by a trawler, there’s less available to a longliner, to a great extent in some of the same species that are caught by both methods. And if it’s an incidental bycatch to a trawler and he’s already caught it, that quota can’t be dished out to somebody else.
CRAWFORD: Anybody still longlining out of Port Chalmers?
HEINEMAN: Not consistently. You know there’s been some longlining down out of here, but nobody stuck at it for that long.
CRAWFORD: Anybody down Bluff ways? Riverton? That you know of?
HEINEMAN: Not that I recall. I think there are boats that longline down there, but they’re reasonably migratory sort of boats.
CRAWFORD: OK. Stewart Island. Identified by everybody as one of the places around New Zealand that has a lot of White Pointers. Why do you think that is? Why there?
HEINEMAN: I don’t know. I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: But you’re a guy that spends a lot of time on the water, and you think about things a lot. I mean there’s got to be a reason.
HEINEMAN: It’s something to do with food. I mean it doesn’t matter what kind of animal it is, you aren’t going to hang around a place if there’s no food there.
CRAWFORD: If it was food, if there was some very rich food source around Stewart Island, which do you think it would be? Seals? Birds? Fish?
HEINEMAN: When I started fishing, Seals were something that you stopped work to look at - if you saw a Seal. Today you see them every day.
CRAWFORD: Really? In the 60s and the 70s, if you saw a Seal, it was a big deal? It was a rare thing?
HEINEMAN: Well, it wasn’t an everyday occurrence.
CRAWFORD: And that was true around the Otago Peninsula?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. There always seems to be more Seals, I think generally speaking, down Stewart Island. Perhaps there wasn’t the same colony, but there seemed to be Seals spread over a bigger area, I think.
CRAWFORD: In the time that you have spent around Stewart Island, did you notice the increase over the decades? In Seals, down there as well?
HEINEMAN: Never really taken too much notice of it. They’re not something that I’d pay a lot of attention to. They’re part of their environment, yeah.
CRAWFORD: What about interactions between the fisheries and White Pointers? Specifically around Stewart Island?
HEINEMAN: I have got a pretty open mind about it because I’ve also heard the stories about the Cod fisherman being in the area for something in excess of 100 years, cleaning their catch in that area, and talking about sharks lingering around when they were cleaning the catch. And obviously feeding off it. So, is what the cage diving is doing a great deal different to that? The only thing is that now you’ve also introduced people into that thing in the water because they’re in the cage and it could be interpreted that perhaps they’re unwillingly antagonising these animals by being there when they’re trying to feed and perhaps not getting the feed that they’re expecting, I don’t know.
Anybody else's experience in this region [Otago Peninsula] that you know of? Have you ever heard of other commercial fisherman out at Port Chalmers or fishing along this section of the coast, who have seen White Pointers?
HEINEMAN: Oh yeah. Setnet fisherman probably more so. We did help at one stage untangle one out of a setnet.
CRAWFORD: Was it dead or alive?
HEINEMAN: It was dead.
CRAWFORD: In the net or in the rigging?
HEINEMAN: In the net I think. Yeah.
CRAWFORD: What have other guys experienced or said about?
HEINEMAN: In the early days when they put the shark protection nets out off the [Dunedin] beaches, there were certainly some caught then too. And they were the first ones that I’d seen in the water.
CRAWFORD: The first White Pointers that you had seen in the water - alive or dead?
HEINEMAN: No, no. They were dead. Some of them were brought into the wharf [at Port Chalmers]. You know they towed them back to here or whatever, because they were using small boats, they couldn’t lift them. And yeah, jumped in the water of our early days of diving and went and had a look at what they looked like in the water. And removed a couple of teeth.
CRAWFORD: What about codpotters? How much codpotting is going on along this part of the coast?
CRAWFORD: Do the codpotters talk about White Pointers at all, that you’ve heard?
HEINEMAN: No, not exceptionally anyway. I’m not saying that they don’t see them, but no I haven’t really heard a lot of comment from them.
CRAWFORD: And the longliners?
HEINEMAN: Not really, no.
CRAWFORD: And what about recreational fishers?
HEINEMAN: Oh yeah, there’s some targeting for sharks and some of them have definitely caught the odd White Pointer.
CRAWFORD: Do you know anybody in the recreational fishing community here? Based out of Dunedin, Port Chalmers that’s into the shark fishing?
HEINEMAN: Warren Lewis certainly. He’s been involved in some targeting sharks at times. Certainly not on his own. There’s been Dave Carr. And those guys would know more about who’s doing what and that sort of thing.
CRAWFORD: Any other divers, that you know of, that have had experiences with White Pointers?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Some of the Pāua divers. Trevor Dick has seen them. Paul Young has seen them.
CRAWFORD: Where were they diving? Are they Bluffies or…
HEINEMAN: They’re both, sort of more or less retired, but live around Dunedin.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Would have been Pāua diving in Southland?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah.
CRAWFORD: And what do you remember of their stories of these encounters?
HEINEMAN: Well I know one of them at one stage felt pretty threatened by it. Ross Newton also talks of seeing them.
CRAWFORD: And when you say one of them felt threatened was it …
HEINEMAN: Oh, I think yeah. I mean the shark must have being behaving relatively aggressively.
CRAWFORD: Who was it you remember was telling that story?
HEINEMAN: Ross tells us about quite aggressive behaviour.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Would the other guys would have been describing similar kinds of things, or that was kind of unusual - the aggressive behaviour?
HEINEMAN: I don’t really recall. Yeah. I know they talked about it. Something that I don’t really dwell on. Just another fishing story.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the attacks, you mentioned one attack, at the mouth of the Otago Harbour.
HEINEMAN: Graham Hitt.
CRAWFORD: Did you know Graham?
HEINEMAN: Because of the attack.
CRAWFORD: You didn’t know him before?
CRAWFORD: And what did you hear if anything of the attack?
HEINEMAN: They had been spearfishing and, yeah, would have been bowled by a shark.
CRAWFORD: It was a one-time event? You didn’t hear anything else apart from that?
HEINEMAN: No. I think afterwards there was a bit of activity, trying to catch the shark.
CRAWFORD: In that specific region?
CRAWFORD: That’s the first I’ve heard of that. Who would have done that searching?
HEINEMAN: Well, I think guys like John Malcolm. If it was them or not I don’t know. But I can remember there was somebody trying to catch sharks after that.
CRAWFORD: Catch sharks in general?
HEINEMAN: White Sharks. Everywhere in the harbour.
CRAWFORD: Those were commercial guys out of Port Chalmers?
HEINEMAN: Yeah, yeah they were.
CRAWFORD: Retired, passed?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. John’s still around.
CRAWFORD: Any other attacks on humans that you’re aware of, in any of this region?
HEINEMAN: The one at St. Kilda was about the same time, within a couple of years of each other. And the odd time you hear of people getting chased out of the water, or whatever. Whether they’re all shark attacks, whether they’re all White Pointers I don’t know.
CRAWFORD: You get that from the news, just like everybody else?
HEINEMAN: Yeah. Absolutely.
Copyright © 2017 Ate Heineman and Steve Crawford