Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 02 December 2015
Post Date: 08 July 2017; Copyright © 2017 Iain Govan and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: If I recall correctly, you said you were born in Dunedin?
GOVAN: Yes, in 1959.
CRAWFORD: At what age do you remember spending a significant amount of time around the water?
GOVAN: Probably from 3-4 years old.
CRAWFORD: Very early on; under parental supervision.
CRAWFORD: Around what places, what regions?
CRAWFORD: Did your family have a holiday home there?
GOVAN: We had a crib at Taieri Mouth, and used to go down there quite a bit. We spent time there before I went to school, and when I was in school also.
CRAWFORD: When you were still under close supervision, what kind of activities were you involved in?
GOVAN: Mostly swimming, fishing, and playing around rock pools - and collecting mussels.
CRAWFORD: What kind of fishing? Rod and reel fishing?
GOVAN: Hand-line back then, I didn’t possess a fishing rod.
CRAWFORD: Did you and your family have access to a dinghy that you would go out in?
GOVAN: No, just form the shore.
CRAWFORD: Ok. How much of your activity was in the river, the estuary, versus along the coastal zone itself?
GOVAN: Probably half and half. We used to fish in the river as well, off the rocks.
CRAWFORD: On a seasonal basis, was it more likely for you to be there during the summertime, as opposed to the winter?
CRAWFORD: As a kid, roughly how long during the summer would you spend there?
GOVAN: Oh, I suppose collectively three or four weeks over the summer. Something like that. Hard to say.
GOVAN: I have memories of the Long Beach area. Just going out for day trips around the beach.
CRAWFORD: There comes a time when you no longer require adult supervision. What age do you figure that was for you, roughly? When were you allowed to go off on your own a little bit?
GOVAN: About 11.
CRAWFORD: And when you reached that age, was it still the same pattern - that you spent most of your time at Taieri Mouth?
GOVAN: No, at that stage I’d spend most of my holiday time at central Otago. So, inland, not coastal waters.
CRAWFORD: That kind of represents a block of time away from marine environments?
GOVAN: That’s right, yes.
CRAWFORD: What age did you resume spending time around New Zealand coastal waters?
GOVAN: At age 21.
CRAWFORD: Was that based in the Dunedin area, or did you relocate?
GOVAN: Dunedin area.
CRAWFORD: What kind of activities?
GOVAN: Scuba-diving and spearfishing.
CRAWFORD: You got certified as a scuba diver?
CRAWFORD: And when you got certified, where would you go? What kind of regions would you be diving in?
CRAWFORD: Anything around Blueskin Bay?
CRAWFORD: Would you dive down here around The Nuggets as well?
CRAWFORD: What kind of spots in the Catlins would you dive?
CRAWFORD: This was recreational diving?
GOVAN: Yes. When we were scuba-diving our sole goal was Crayfish. We didn’t get in the water just to look around.
CRAWFORD: What kind of seasonality for this?
GOVAN: Principally summer, but at times we’d go out in the winter as well.
CRAWFORD: During the summer, how frequently might you go out diving? Once a month?
GOVAN: More frequently than that. We’d go out weekly if we could.
CRAWFORD: But on average?
GOVAN: On average, perhaps once a week.
CRAWFORD: During the winter, something like once a month?
GOVAN: Something like that, yes. Certainly much lower frequency. But through spring through to autumn, we were out reasonably regularly.
CRAWFORD: These were day trips? Length of time in the water would be on the order of hours?
GOVAN: Yes. We might have gone out and done a couple of dives, so depending on depth obviously. But yes, two hours maximum would be the case generally.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how many years did you dive for Crayfish?
GOVAN: Probably about ten years. That would have been that period of regular activity.
CRAWFORD: Until you were about thirty?
CRAWFORD: Did you do any substantial amount of boating, sailing, line fishing or rod and reel fishing?
GOVAN: Very little of any of those. It was all centered around either scuba-diving or spearfishing.
CRAWFORD: When did you start to spearfish in a big way?
GOVAN: Virtually as soon as I learned scuba-diving.
CRAWFORD: Early 20s?
GOVAN: Yes. The guy who was my instructor was a very keen spearfisherman. In fact, I’ve put you on to him as another person to contact - Paul Cobby and his diving and spearfishing friends John Amsden who now lives in Byron Bay, and Chris Dodds who is the other name I gave you. They were very keen spearfishermen. I started going out with them right from the get-go.
CRAWFORD: Relative to the frequency of scuba-diving, what was the frequency of spearfishing? About the same?
GOVAN: Yes, the same. We would always look to combine the two of these. We wouldn't be just going scuba-diving; we’d look to do a tank dive, and then spearfish as well.
CRAWFORD: I see, that’s helpful. The frequency over seasons?
GOVAN: Pretty similar. Really the only thing is that we probably wouldn't have spearfished as much in the colder months, because of poor visibility.
CRAWFORD: Fair enough. In that regard, were there some places you would scuba-dive but not spearfish, or vice-versa?
GOVAN: Seal Point. We'd spearfish a lot more than scuba-dive.
CRAWFORD: Why’s that?
GOVAN: Just in our experience we caught a lot more fish there than Crays. And you’d have to walk down from the road, which was quite a ways, and you wouldn’t want to be carrying scuba gear down there.
CRAWFORD: Any other places that were predominantly one type of diving, rather than the other?
GOVAN: A lot of the spots around the [Otago] Peninsula, perhaps around Cape Saunders, would have been principally scuba-diving
CRAWFORD: With boat access?
GOVAN: Yes. At Cape Saunders we’d at times ... not sure if you can get there anymore, but we used to walk down there and spearfish or scuba-dive. Places further north such as Karitane or Shag Point, that was principally spearfishing.
CRAWFORD: That brings up an important question. Roughly what percentage of your dives, whether it was scuba- or free-diving were shore-based as opposed to boat-based? Did you have a boat?
GOVAN: No, I didn’t myself. The majority would have been shore-based diving.
CRAWFORD: Maybe 60 or 70 percent? Something like that?
GOVAN: Yes, possibly 70 percent.
CRAWFORD: That takes us from your 20's to your 30's. Were you still doing both free-dive spearfishing and scuba-diving through that period?
CRAWFORD: When did things change after that?
GOVAN: I went to Scotland in 1987. Back here in 1988, then over there again for 1989/90. Came back at the end of 1990. Just about all the diving I’ve done since then has been spearfishing only.
CRAWFORD: Roughly four years that you were pretty much offline?
CRAWFORD: Were you diving in Scotland?
GOVAN: Yes. We dived for a living for Scallops and Crayfish, plus did in-shore construction work just as it came up, and a bit of salvage work and so on.
CRAWFORD: Did you get your commercial dive certificate?
GOVAN: No. I don’t have an instruction qualification at all.
CRAWFORD: When you came back, you didn't care to scuba-dive anymore?
GOVAN: I still went out and did the occasional scuba dive, but wasn’t much interested in it anymore - having done it for a job in Scotland. I think it might have been after two or three years, I got rid of my tanks because I couldn't be bothered with it. But the spearfishing carried on, as I never wanted to relinquish that, as long as I was physically able to.
CRAWFORD: Just before we get into your post-Scotland spearfishing phase ... You had also mentioned that you had spent a fair amount of time down around Stewart Island. Had that already happened prior to Scotland? Or was that still to come?
GOVAN: We went down to Stewart Island quite a bit during the early years.
CRAWFORD: So, prior to Scotland?
CRAWFORD: Tell me about your spearfishing experiences down at Stewart Island, during those early years.
GOVAN: Most of the time I was down there, it was just charter trips. You know, like a bunch of us would charter a boat.
CRAWFORD: A bunch of spearfishermen?
GOVAN: Tank divers and spearfishermen both. And just do like a week trip or something. Tripping around the coast area.
CRAWFORD: Would you start around Bluff?
CRAWFORD: If you chartered out of Bluff, what regions might you have been diving?
GOVAN: To be honest I can’t remember how far south we went. I really don’t recall the place names.
CRAWFORD: That’s fine. What kinds of things do you remember?
GOVAN: Quite a bit around Paterson Inlet, and north and south from there. I remember fishing around that area.
GOVAN: I can’t remember diving there.
CRAWFORD: Foveaux Strait region, due west along the southern end of the South Island. Did you ever do any substantial diving over there?
GOVAN: Back in about the early 80’s, I spent a few days spearfishing and diving there.
CRAWFORD: And you might go here for a day, and then someplace else?
GOVAN: Absolutely. We were just living on the boat, and we’d anchor up here and there.
CRAWFORD: Was this an annual kind of thing? Or maybe every other year?
GOVAN: We would have done that at least once a year, for a few years. Yeah, we went down there reasonably regularly, from memory.
CRAWFORD: Ok. And that’s all in the pre-Scotland period?
CRAWFORD: Did you ever go diving around Stewart Island and the associated islands in the post-Scotland period?
CRAWFORD: Let’s bring this chart back because I suspect from what you've said that most of your post-Scotland is going to be along the eastern Otago coastline?
GOVAN: Yes, absolutely.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Post-Scotland, you come back, do a little scuba-diving. But mostly your passion is free-dive spearfishing?
CRAWFORD: Same general regions, or did you shift regions?
GOVAN: Just the same, principally. Karitane was a favourite spot. And Shag Point. I haven’t been up there for a while, but that was a favourite spot as well. Also, Seal Point, and around the entrance to the [Otago] Harbour.
CRAWFORD: Still spearfishing around Green Island as well?
GOVAN: Oh yes, Green island. Went out to Green Island a lot.
CRAWFORD: Popular spot?
GOVAN: Possibly the place we went out to ... probably more than anywhere. I think that and Karitane and Seal Point.
CRAWFORD: Taieri Mouth still? Or not so much?
GOVAN: No. It’s a long time since I’ve been down there. In recent years, I’ve fished a bit round Papatowai, Tautuku [Peninsula] and so on.
CRAWFORD: But Green Island and Otago Peninsula would account for maybe 80 percent of your spearfishing?
GOVAN: Yes, those places and Karitane. Certainly.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Is that pretty much the pattern from 1990 to the present? Has it been a fairly consistent pattern over the 25 years?
GOVAN: In recent years, I had a period where I wasn’t going out much for other reasons. I couldn’t. That would have been about 2001 through to 2008.
CRAWFORD: That was another block where you were pretty much out of the water again?
GOVAN: Yes. I wasn’t in the water very often at all, over that time.
CRAWFORD: When did you resume? Around 2008-2009?
GOVAN: Yes, about that. I kind of mix it up with hunting and trout fishing and so on. At the moment, I haven’t been out. Haven’t been in the water at all this year. About half a dozen times, It would cap out at that probably.
CRAWFORD: Does that bring us up to the present?
Copyright © 2017 Iain Govan and Steve Crawford