Experience: Commercial Skipper, Commercial Fisherman
Regions: Otago, Chathams, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Milford Sound, NZ
Interview Date: 07 February 2016
Post Date: 01 December 2017; Copyright © 2017 Lewis Huia and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Where were you born and when, Lewis?
HUIA: I was born in Dunedin, in 1955.
CRAWFORD: What is the first recollection you have of spending a significant amount of time around the water? How old were you?
CRAWFORD: Your family home was within walking distance to those beaches?
HUIA: Yes, that’s right.
CRAWFORD: What kinds of activities were you engaged in, as a young kid. when you were around the water?
HUIA: Mainly swimming, and on nice days at the saltwater pond in St. Clair. Mostly it was us running around the rocks.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever do any boarding?
HUIA: No, never.
CRAWFORD: Kicking around in a dinghy, or sailing at all?
HUIA: No. Just down the beach.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, what age did you have some independence from friends and family? Where you could go off with your mates, or on your own?
HUIA: About 13.
CRAWFORD: And with that, did you have an expanded range? Did you go to different places?
HUIA: Not really. I stayed around Dunedin, just growing up as a young teenager.
CRAWFORD: Mostly on the south coast of the [Otago] Peninsula?
HUIA: Yeah, yes.
CRAWFORD: When you were a teen, was it similar kinds of activities? Hanging around the beach, swimming, those types of things? Or did you get into anything new at that age?
HUIA: Pretty much the same.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the amount of time as a teen that you would spend on the water, was there seasonality to it? Summer versus winter?
HUIA: More in the summer.
CRAWFORD: And during the summer, roughly how often would be down at the beach?
HUIA: Quite a lot, because we were only about a 15-minute walk from the beach.
CRAWFORD: And in the winter time, not as much?
HUIA: Not very often.
CRAWFORD: At what point did you either move out of the region, or get a full-time job? I'm looking for natural breaks in your pattern around the coast.
HUIA: I started working for one of the department stores.
CRAWFORD: What age was that, roughly?
HUIA: 16. After that, I started working construction at Otago University, building the library.
CRAWFORD: What was the next major change, in terms of the amount of time you were spending on the water?
HUIA: Years later. I started going out with a girl from Stewart Island. When I got down there on holiday. And her brother was a fisherman.
CRAWFORD: What year was this, roughly?
CRAWFORD: How frequently would you been down to Stewart Island? once a year, few times a year?
HUIA: Actually, before that, I was in the territorial's Army, and my first visit was with the Army down to Stewart Island on the old Wairua - we crossed on the old ferry to Stewart Island on an exercise. And after that is when I was going out with that girl from Stewart Island. We went down there for holidays during Christmas. When I went to Stewart Island, I built up an interest in the marine industry. Went back to Dunedin, and enrolled in a fishing-maritime foundation course at the Otago Polytech.
CRAWFORD: Roughly what year was that?
HUIA: It would have been 1986.
CRAWFORD: That was definitely one of those natural break points. You decided that you had an interest working in a marine environment. Specifically, fisheries?
HUIA: I took the foundation course, and I was interested in anything that involved the marine industry. Basically, fishing was the easiest way to get to sea.
CRAWFORD: What did you do when you got your certification?
HUIA: I actually won a scholarship, so I ended up getting offered a position working in commercial fishing on a deep-sea trawler, as a training deckhand.
CRAWFORD: Where was that based?
CRAWFORD: What size of vessel was that?
HUIA: It was a very large ship, there were two of them.
CRAWFORD: 100 meters length?
CRAWFORD: And this was deepsea offshore fishing, as in dozens or hundreds of nautical miles offshore?
CRAWFORD: And by 'deep' we are talking about hundreds of meters?
HUIA: I think they used to fish about 1000 meters, 2000 meters. The patrol area was up and down the Chathams, on the northern rise and the southern rise.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever dock in the Chatham’s?
HUIA: No. We unloaded our fish in Dunedin, at the factory.
CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job for?
HUIA: Long enough so I could get my Qualified Fishing Deckhand, which was probably about a year.
CRAWFORD: So, there's Foundation, then Deckhand, on the way to getting your Skipper's certificate?
HUIA: That's right.
CRAWFORD: When did you get that Deckhand certification?
CRAWFORD: What did you do with it?
HUIA: Then I went inshore fishing. I got a job, there was a boat leaving for the Chathams, so I was offered a senior deckhand job on that.
CRAWFORD: What kind of vessel was that?
HUIA: Inshore fishing vessel.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how long?
HUIA: She would have been about 60 feet.
CRAWFORD: What kind of fishery?
HUIA: Finfish, trawling.
CRAWFORD: Bottom trawling, deep-water?
CRAWFORD: You’d be gone for weeks at a time then, I presume?
HUIA: At the Chathams, yes. A couple of months on, maybe couple of weeks off, something like that.
CRAWFORD: Was that a seasonal thing, summer, winter?
HUIA: No, actually it was supposed to be a permanent thing. But it did not quite work out that way.
CRAWFORD: When did you leave that job?
HUIA: Probably about six months later.
CRAWFORD: And where did you go?
HUIA: Then I came back to New Zealand, and I worked down in Stewart Island for my girlfriend’s brother.
CRAWFORD: Was it a relocation? Were you down working at Stewart Island for an extended period of time?
HUIA: Three months, I think it was.
CRAWFORD: What type of work were you doing there?
HUIA: Crayfishing and Pāua.
CRAWFORD: Was this based at Halfmoon Bay?
HUIA: No, Thule.
CRAWFORD: Pardon me?
HUIA: Thule Bay, next to Golden Bay.
CRAWFORD: So, a place on Paterson Inlet.
CRAWFORD: Day-fishing? Overnight trips.
HUIA: Yeah, day-fishing. We would sometimes anchor up overnight.
CRAWFORD: When you were fishing at Stewart Island, what year was that, roughly?
HUIA: 1989, I suppose.
CRAWFORD: What regions of Stewart Island would you fish?
CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job for?
HUIA: Only about three months.
CRAWFORD: And then what?
HUIA: Then I came back to Dunedin, and I ended up working on a scallop boat, South Sea Scallops.
CRAWFORD: Out of Port Chalmers?
CRAWFORD: Where were the scallop grounds?
HUIA: Just off the trenches ... two trenches just straight out from the light, actually.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how many miles offshore?
HUIA: Right on the edge, right at the edge of the dropoff.
CRAWFORD: The continental slope?
CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job?
HUIA: Quite a while, because I was working in a factory as well. It was for the guy I worked for at the Chathams, actually. Because he asked me if I wanted to go fishing.
CRAWFORD: How many years for that job?
HUIA: Probably a couple of years. I used to change ... because I was in the printing trade, depending on the fishing. Because fishing wasn't terribly reliable then. So, I would flip backwards and forwards between printing and fishing.
CRAWFORD: What is the next major change in terms of the amount of time or the activities that you spent on the water?
HUIA: Actually, I was called down to the Auckland Islands.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, When were you were down at the Aucklands?
HUIA: Probably about 1990 I was on a charter trip. A guy rung me up, he needed someone with a New Zealand Coastal Master's Certification. I was on vessel called the [Ogawley], it's a sailing ketch. We took scientists and the Department of Conservation [DOC] down there. A scientist [Natalie Patenui], she was from the Auckland University, School of Biological Sciences. They were studying the Southern Right Whale, and the DOC were tagging the Hooker’s Sea Lions.
CRAWFORD: How long was that trip for?
HUIA: It was for two weeks, I think.
CRAWFORD: So, you had some experience, not just with the Auckland Islands, but also directly with Science people who were doing research there. You spent time with them, and you picked up knowledge from them?
HUIA: That's right. Because what we were doing was, they were taking DNA samples, plugs from the Southern Right Whales. It was in Port Ross, round the end of the island.
CRAWFORD: When was that, roughly? Mid-1990s?
HUIA: Yeah, it probably would have been. I'd need to look at the tickets - it's all in the dates from the tickets.
CRAWFORD: We just need approximate - just a general sense of sequence, and roughly when things happened. What was the next big change in your experience on the water?
HUIA: Well, I've also sailed around the top of the Australian on the [Ogawley]. We sailed around with the [TVNZ] Natural History Unit.
CRAWFORD: The documentary people?
HUIA: Yeah. We took them around the top of Australia, and we were diving for footage for a documentary called 'Menace of the Sea.' That was around the top from Townsville around to Darwin, with stops along the way.
CRAWFORD: What kind of ‘menaces’ were they documenting?
HUIA: Anything we could come across as we were diving. Tiger Sharks, Hammerheads, anything - all the 'nasty' stuff they can find off the coast of Australia. It was basically everything from Cone Snails to Stonefish, Crocodiles ...
CRAWFORD: How long did that trip take?
HUIA: It was very short. Basically, they were just getting library footage. But the vessel, the primary objective was going up to [Ashmore Reef], and they were doing a documentary on Seasnakes. And then I left the boat in Darwin, and I came back here. Then I ended up in Milford Sound.
CRAWFORD: When did you actually get your Skipper's ticket?
CRAWFORD: You already had it by the time you went off to Australia?
HUIA: Yeah. I had it when I went there.
CRAWFORD: And when you came back, that's when you relocated to Milford Sound?
HUIA: Yeah. 1996. That's one date I definitely know. I got a position here as a Harbour Controller.
CRAWFORD: How long were you Harbour Controller for?
HUIA: It was about six months or something. And then I applied for a position with Red Boats, Southern Discoveries. Then I left in 2001, and went overseas to Australia.
CRAWFORD: Before you left for Australia, were you a Skipper here for Southern Discoveries?
HUIA: Yeah, for three years.
CRAWFORD: How long did you spent working in Australia?
HUIA: Just about a year. I also got Master Class 5 Australian, Skipper Grade 3 Australian, and Marine Engine Drivers Class 2.
CRAWFORD: And then what?
HUIA: I came back to work for Real Journeys on Lake Te Anau, doing the Glow-worm caves.
CRAWFORD: Were you away from marine waters for that time?
CRAWFORD: When did you start working again on New Zealand coastal waters?
CRAWFORD: There is a wharf there, their vessels? Similar kind of thing, where there are overnight cruises ...
HUIA: Yeah, we used to cruise out to the Tasman Sea.
CRAWFORD: How long did you have that job for?
HUIA: About a year. And then I came back to Milford Sound.
CRAWFORD: When was that, roughly?
HUIA: Well, I've been here ten years now, so 2005.
CRAWFORD: And the last ten here, it has been working as a Skipper for JUCY?
HUIA: I've basically been with the same company, because it started off as Cruise Milford Sound on the Adventurer. JUCY had been involved with the company for about the last five years. Then they bought their own boat, and then I worked for JUCY.
CRAWFORD: So pretty much through that period of time, even though the vessels changed, you have been doing the same kind of scenic tours here in Milford Sound for the last 10 years or so?
HUIA: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: During that decade, was there a seasonality to that work, or has it been pretty much year-round?
CRAWFORD: Is there seasonality in the number of trips you take?
HUIA: During the winter, we do three cruises a day, and during the summer we do four cruises a day.
CRAWFORD: Is it seven days on and seven days off, kind of thing?
CRAWFORD: So, you would have been up in the thousands of Milford Sound trips over that decade?
HUIA: Yeah, that’s right.
CRAWFORD: Any other significant time spent, either to the north or south, in Fiordland?
HUIA: Well, I've been in the majority of the fiords here doing coastals.
CRAWFORD: 'Coastals' meaning when you were running vessels back and forth to Bluff?
HUIA: To Bluff, to the surveyors. When I was working for Southern Discoveries, or Red Boats years ago, we used to go to Dunedin.
CRAWFORD: That was an annual thing? These coastals?
CRAWFORD: You would have been generally familiar with the coastline of Fiordland, but you were also going into the sounds?
HUIA: Oh, very much so.
CRAWFORD: And that brings us up to the present, with regard to your experience around New Zealand coastal waters?
2. EXPOSURE TO MĀORI/LOCAL/SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS
CRAWFORD: In general, how much has Māori culture and knowledge influenced your thinking about how the marine ecosystem works?
HUIA: Very low. Because when I was growing up, it was very much European. My Father came from North Island, that's where my iwi is. When my Father came down here to Dunedin, I was never taught to speak Māori, because they saw no need for it - because that was the influence the Europeans had on society. Even at school, very little was taught, other than what used to be called 'The Māori Wars' which is now called 'The New Zealand Wars.' And very little on my culture. It's changing a bit now.
CRAWFORD: To what extent has Science culture and knowledge affected your understanding of marine ecosystems?
HUIA: Medium to High. Because I've always been interested in Science anyway.
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: What was the first time that you remember either hearing about or seeing a White Pointer?
HUIA: I heard about them when I was a child, growing up in Dunedin.
CRAWFORD: What was the circumstance?
HUIA: It wasn't necessarily a White Pointer, but it was the shark attacks.
CRAWFORD: You are referring to the shark attacks at St. Clair and St. Kilda?
HUIA: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how old were you?
HUIA: I was fairly young, 19 or so.
CRAWFORD: What do you recall, growing up in that neighborhood when the attacks occurred? What did you hear about them?
HUIA: Just how it was quite dangerous because of the sharks swimming on the beaches.
CRAWFORD: Were there people talking about how dangerous the beaches were?
CRAWFORD: Had they talked that way before the attacks? Or was it more in response to those specific attacks?
HUIA: Yeah, because of the attacks. And sharks had been seen there.
CRAWFORD: Was there a kind of hysteria associated with it? Were people overly concerned?
HUIA: There was a definite concern, I wouldn't call it hysteria. Well, the way the news was presented - you could call it a form of hysteria. Because it has a big impact on the young teenagers.
CRAWFORD: That is basically what I'm getting at. Did the old-timers ever tell the kids "You have to be careful of sharks there especially, or that time of year?" Anything like that? Was there embedded knowledge in the community, where you got advice like that from the old-timers?
HUIA: I think there must have been some reference from the older people, about the evidence of shark attacks. Once again, everything was sensationalized due to the newspapers.
CRAWFORD: Was there anything in terms of particular locations along the coastline, or time of the day, or proximity to certain features?
HUIA: Times. The attacks were during the day, but that's when people are in the water.
CRAWFORD: Right. So, you've got a group of attacks that take place in a very small geographic region, over a short period of time - and then nothing. There weren't any attacks before. And then bang, bang, bang. And then nothing again. What did you, or your mates, or your family think about that?
HUIA: Well, to be honest, nobody really worried about that, after the shark nets were put out.
CRAWFORD: Really? So, there was a sense of security from those shark nets?
HUIA: That’s right.
CRAWFORD: Did you see the shark nets? Did you see the floats, or the guy who was tending the shark nets?
HUIA: Yeah, you could see the floats.
CRAWFORD: Did you know anything about the distribution of the nets?
HUIA: I was surprised at how much wasn't out there - put it that way.
CRAWFORD: Yes, it was a fairly small percentage of the beaches that was being covered. Did you ever hear anything about what was being caught in those nets, if anything?
HUIA: No, not until later on. Because I know the fisherman that was responsible for those nets.
CRAWFORD: Which fisherman?
HUIA: Graeme Fraser, out of Taieri Mouth.
CRAWFORD: Right. But you were a Dunedin boy, and you were right there at the Otago Peninsula ... When you were growing up, was there any reference to the idea that the Peninsula, especially out at Taiaroa Head, had a lot of White Pointers?
HUIA: I know out at Aramoana, there was a well-known photograph taken of a guy surfing there, and there was a fin just off to the side of him.
HUIA: Do you know where this photo is?
HUIA: Tautuku Fishing Club. They should have that picture, because it was there when I was there years ago. I had been out fishing in one of their competitions.
CRAWFORD: Thank you for that lead. What do you know about sharks out around Aramoana? Did you hear anything about sharks or shark-human incidences there?
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear of a White Pointer called KZ-7?
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear from the old-timers, or any of your mates, anything about White Pointers in Otago Harbour? Either the upper harbour or the lower harbour?
HUIA: No, I didn't.
HUIA: No. I spent a lot of time when I was younger out at Long Beach.
CRAWFORD: Any shark sightings there?
HUIA: Not that I recall.
CRAWFORD: In general, throughout your maritime experience, have you ever seen a White Pointer in the wild?
HUIA: No. The only shark I've ever seen was here in Milford Sound. And it was because the visibility of the water was quite clear. It was as long as one of these tables [approx two metres]. All I can remember was that it was a sort of blue colour, but it had a big tail, the top part of the tail was long. It was a Mako or Thresher or something like that.
CRAWFORD: The period of time that you were fishing at the Chathams, did you hear anything about White Pointers from the old-timers there?
HUIA: At Port Hutt, some very interesting stories. One day I wasn't working, so I went out in one of the Crayfishing boats, and they were talking about sharks as big as freight trains going underneath the boat while they were hauling pots. And also there was another fisherman using danlines, he floated it up with a 12-gallon drum, and he never saw it again. A 12-gallon drum, is quite a bit of buoyancy.
CRAWFORD: That would be a big animal, of one kind or another, to take that down.
HUIA: That's for real.
CRAWFORD: Back in the day when you spent time at Stewart Island, did you hear from people that the places that you were fishing - Ruggedy, Codfish, and South Cape - were those areas known to be sharky?
HUIA: The guys said that they had seen sharks. They didn't feel threatened by them, but they had seen some large sharks around Ruggedy.
CRAWFORD: When you were in Paterson Inlet, or you talked to people whole spent time in Paterson Inlet, did anybody talk about seeing White Pointers in the Inlet?
CRAWFORD: Did you know people who spent any significant amount of time around the northern Titi Islands?
HUIA: No, not really. But there were always stories about sharks, especially from the fishermen.
CRAWFORD: But when you were there, that was back in the day, prior to the Department of Conservation tagging the White Pointers, or the cage dive operations?
HUIA: Yeah, that’s right. That was before. But I never heard of any fatalities from sharks. I'd heard of close encounters, especially by Pāua divers.
CRAWFORD: Around Stewart Island?
CRAWFORD: What the Pāua divers say in terms of places ... if there was going to be a White Pointer interaction, where would it likely be?
HUIA: Around the Ruggedies, Codfish.
CRAWFORD: The same places you were fishing, but you never saw any White Pointers there?
HUIA: No, I never saw any. I was on the dinghy as well, down at South Cape.
CRAWFORD: In your time at the Auckland Islands, when you were on that research trip down there, was there any indication of White Pointers down there? Anything that they talked about?
HUIA: No, not regarding sharks.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever see Basking Sharks anywhere in New Zealand coastal waters?
CRAWFORD: Ok. Let's get back to Milford Sound and the Fiordland coastline. Through those thousands of scenic tours, and all of the coastal trips that you have made along here, you said you have not seen any White Pointers. To your knowledge, have the old-timers, or any of your contemporaries, ever seen White Pointers in Milford Sound?
HUIA: Maybe on the odd occasion, a fishermen would have seen one. The Crayfishermen talk about seeing sharks.
CRAWFORD: When they're outside of the Sound?
HUIA: Yeah, that's right.
CRAWFORD: How far south would that be?
CRAWFORD: Any reports of interactions with these sharks, or interactions with their fishing gear?
HUIA: Not that I can remember.
CRAWFORD: Specifically with regards to Milford Sound, I'm learning that wind and precipitation can have major effects on surface conditions and water visibility.
HUIA: Visibility isn't very good at all. I've dived in here as well.
CRAWFORD: As in a couple of metres visibility?
HUIA: Could be more sometimes, it could vary/
CRAWFORD: What would be the minimum visibility?
HUIA: Less than a metre.
CRAWFORD: What accounts for that decrease in visibility?
HUIA: The tannin in the freshwater. They always say the visibility in freshwater is not as good as it is in saltwater.
CRAWFORD: The freshwater layer that sits on top of the saltwater layer, what would be the maximum depth of that freshwater lens?
HUIA: I know for a fact that the Underwater Observatory lost their black coral garden due to freshwater on at least two occasions. I think they can lower those baskets down to 14 metres.
CRAWFORD: With regards to the extended periods of time when it does not rain, is it the case that visibility in the sound improves gradually?
HUIA: It's amazing, yeah.
CRAWFORD: How long for no rain conditions until you notice a significant change of this visibility? Days, weeks?
CRAWFORD: And when there is an increase of visibility like that, do you notice more things in the surface waters, when viewing from the bridge or the deck?
HUIA: We get in fairly close to the rock wall. There are a few places where you can see Seals here. And there is quite a large infestation of starfish, so if you can see those - I mean, the visibility is quite good.
CRAWFORD: Right. In terms of the extent out the sound for that freshwater effect that you notice, how far out would that be still noticeable?
HUIA: Just off Dale Point, at the entrance of the fiord. You can see it breaking down, because you can see the colour difference in the water.
CRAWFORD: Give me a sense of the types of animals that you have seen under very good water visibility - things that you normally would not see if that thinner layer of freshwater with tannin was sitting on the top?
HUIA: Leopard Seals.
HUIA: It was funny, the first time I saw a Leopard Seal, it was the same place where I saw that long-tailed shark, just around the corner from here. That would have been more coincidence than science.
CRAWFORD: Well, sometimes science relies pretty heavily on coincidences. Even single observations that only happen once in a lifetime can tell you very important things about the animals. During those periods of extreme good visibility here in Milford Sound, any other types of unusual observations under those conditions?
HUIA: The only thing I can think is Leopard Seals. Maybe the odd shark, but nothing that I would have recognized.
5. WHITE POINTER ENCOUNTERS - EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS
CRAWFORD: Did the Dunedin shark attacks change either how you behaved - or how your family wanted you to behave around the coast?
HUIA: Well later on, one of the boys from my school was attacked. He left school for the day to go swimming, and he got attacked.
CRAWFORD: Tell me that story.
HUIA: It was actually on the news a few years ago. They went back to that incident. I don't know what the program was, but he was on the news, this guy.
CRAWFORD: What was his name?
HUIA: I can't remember. [Barry Watkins] He survived the attack. Apparently, the stories I had heard - because I knew a couple of guys who surfed there - when the shark attacked, it went for the board. And after that, a wave came over, and the shark had him, by the leg or something. When he opened his mouth, a wave actually washed him out. It showed the board in the newspaper.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember which beach this happened at?
HUIA: St. Clair. All the attacks I can remember, were mainly St. Clair.
Copyright © 2017 Lewis Huia and Steve Crawford