Chris Hepburn

Hepburn_Chris Small.png

YOB: 1974
Experience: Marine Ecologist
Regions: Otago, Banks Peninsula, Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Rakiura/Stewart Island, Fiordland
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 21 December 2015
Post Date: 17 May 2017; Copyright © 2017 Chris Hepburn and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: In terms of the degree to which different knowledge systems have affected your understanding of marine environments, obviously the science knowledge system has had a major effect.


CRAWFORD: To what extent has Māori and Local culture and knowledge influenced your thinking? To what extent have there been interactions?

HEPBURN: Are we talking about sharks specifically, are we talking about interactions generally?

CRAWFORD: Marine ecosystems generally.

HEPBURN: I'm strongly influenced by that. 

CRAWFORD: What are the principal mechanisms by which knowledge from Māori culture is coming to you?

HEPBURN: By working with people.

CRAWFORD: Traditional people?

HEPBURN: Yeah. So, listening to them, having conversations over cups of tea, going and collecting kai with them, doing research with them.

CRAWFORD: Is it the complete range then, from casual observations to research partnerships?

HEPBURN: It's just like talking to old people - when we learn from what they've done and their experiences. I'm not that good a listener, but I like to listen, and try and learn from what people tell me. In that situation, when you know the person, and you've worked with them and you respect them, then you listen to them. And that's the thing.

CRAWFORD: When they tell you a story, if you hadn't had that kind of connection with them, you might not think twice about the story? But if you know them, and they get to know you, and they're telling you something, it sticks with you in different ways?

HEPBURN: Yeah. Coming straight out of Cromwell as a kid, I wouldn't listen at all. I had this funny idea about how things were in the world. I wouldn't say that I'm captured by Māori, though some people would perhaps say that I am. I'm an independent scientist, and I always will be. I've just seen so much. The real people that do the job, the kaitiaki - they understand a lot of stuff. They're not arrogant about it. They know they understand very little, but they understand some things that are right. And when we do science, we find they are pretty much bang on with their ideas. Their ideas about management and stuff like that.

CRAWFORD: Give me an example.

HEPBURN: You know, principles of ecology, providing refuge, fisheries management for breeding stock, things like that. We went through a big process of trying to protect the Paua fishery, at East Otago Taiapure. You know, thinking about bag limits and output controls and rotational harvests and all sorts of stuff. And in the end one of the kaitiaki’s said “Well, why don't we have a wade-only fishery? Just like it used to be.” And it works in the modern world, and it's smart. That's one example of where ecology and that kind of knowledge, fits a hell of a lot better than say commercial mechanisms of management. And that's the great thing of that connectivity. It's a good fit.

Copyright © 2017 Chris Hepburn and Steve Crawford