Experience: Commercial Fisherman, Cruise Crew, Cruise Skipper
Regions: Canterbury, Cook Strait, Northland, Chathams, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Milford Sound, NZ
Interview Date: 07 February 2016
Post Date: 01 December 2017; Copyright © 2017 Max Darroch and Steve Crawford
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: Marlborough Sound. Did the old-timers up there say anything about White Pointers? You were spending time there, boating and fishing. Was there ever any discussion about White Pointers up there?
DARROCH: Not that I can recall.
CRAWFORD: When you were fishing out of Nelson, in that region, did people talk about White Pointers there?
DARROCH: Yeah, they had ones there.
CRAWFORD: Where, specifically?
DARROCH: Straight off the end of d'Urville Island, right in Tasman Bay, around that area.
CRAWFORD: Was there any kind of reason that they figured was bringing those sharks in to that area?
DARROCH: No. I just heard them on the radio saying there’s a White Pointer, or what was supposedly a White Pointer, in that area.
CRAWFORD: Do you have any recollection what time of year that would have been – summer, winter?
DARROCH: Yeah, I do. That would have been about March/April.
CRAWFORD: Anywhere else in Cook Strait?
DARROCH: Not that I was told.
CRAWFORD: What were the Seals like up there? In terms of abundance.
DARROCH: Seals? Not a lot.
CRAWFORD: No place that they were super abundant?
DARROCH: No, not around Nelson. Not while I was there, anyways.
CRAWFORD: Ok. What was your knowledge of the old whaling stations up in Cook Strait?
DARROCH: I have no knowledge of that at all, to be honest. I saw the remains of them, as we sailed by. That's about all.
CRAWFORD: Over to the Chathams. It seems White Pointers were the subject of much discussion around there. Did people figure that there was a particular reason why the Chathams would be so sharky?
DARROCH: I was told it was because of the current - is it a warmer current or colder current?
CRAWFORD: The locals or old-timers told you it had something to do with the current?
DARROCH: That’s what I was told, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Was the current affecting the temperature? Or something in the nature of the water, or was the current maybe affecting food?
DARROCH: Food, I guess. It would be the reason they’d be there.
CRAWFORD: Do you figure that the local people had said that? Or was that what you thought?
DARROCH: That’s what I just thought, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Did people over at the Chathams ever talk about reproduction with these White Pointers? Anything else like that?
DARROCH: No. But there’s been a couple of attacks, like shark attacks over there.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That was the Chathams, six months you were fishing out past there. Then you went up to Nelson?
DARROCH: Yes. I went on a deepwater trawler. We worked out of Wellington, really.
CRAWFORD: When you were on that deepwater rig, well out there and over very deep water, did you happen to see sharks from time to time?
DARROCH: No. We didn’t on those ones, no.
CRAWFORD: But that’s also a big vessel, and when you’re working on that vessel's deck ... I mean, you’re not really looking over to see what’s there.
DARROCH: That's right. Yeah.
CRAWFORD: After the deepwater trawling, then you came here to Milford Sound?
CRAWFORD: Ok. Twenty years of Skippering out of Milford. Thousands of cruises. I think you already said you’ve never seen a White Pointer on these grounds?
DARROCH: Well, you see I don’t know. I’ve seen some sharks. In Harrison’s Cove, we used to throw a sack with lamb shanks in it, over the side. And the sharks would come and grab it. We could actually lift them well up out of the water. They were a blue colour, blue and white. I don’t know what kind of sharks, but they were quite big.
CRAWFORD: When you were here 20 years ago as a younger man, did the old-timers ever tell you about White Pointers in this region?
DARROCH: Not in here. Not to me anyways.
CRAWFORD: What about Fiordland generally? Further out there?
DARROCH: Only the ones down Stewart Island. The only ones that have told me about them. I haven’t heard anyone talking around about here.
CRAWFORD: Not from the Crayfishing fleet, or anything like that?
CRAWFORD: For all the trips that you have done in Milford Sound, the visibility of what is happening in the water - I hear that can change quite dramatically, depending on precipitation?
DARROCH: Yep. Definitely.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, how long does it take with no rain before you as a Skipper start to notice that you’re seeing more things?
DARROCH: Probably a couple, maybe three days.
CRAWFORD: Yeah? Even as soon as that?
CRAWFORD: And what are the types of things that you would start to see in the water after those three or four days? That you would not have seen, if there was that freshwater layer with tannin on top?
DARROCH: Schools of fish, schools of Kahawai, and Barracouta, that sort of thing. And yeah, sharks - those Blue Sharks.
CRAWFORD: And you’ve see those sharks in fairly big numbers, like schools of them?
DARROCH: Yeah. Especially in Harrison’s Cove, yeah.
CRAWFORD: There are a couple of instances where people are talking about White Pointers attacking the Seals here at Milford Sound. Have you ever heard stories about that?
DARROCH: Only that there’s been a wounded Seal, sitting up on the rock, with chunks taken out of him. There was one just recently, actually.
CRAWFORD: Yes, I heard about that. How long ago?
DARROCH: Oh, probably three weeks.
CRAWFORD: Did people see the Seal by itself, or did people see it with the shark around?
DARROCH: No, by itself.
CRAWFORD: Did they ever see the White Pointer that they reckoned caused the damage?
DARROCH: No, no. There was a story, like 20 years ago when I first started here. There was a shark that must have been sick, and some silly bugger jumped over the side and stabbed him with a knife. That was here in ’96 maybe.
CRAWFORD: In Harrison Cove?
DARROCH: No, that was just in the middle of the fiord. Actually, there was a stink about it because it turned out it was inside the marine reserve when he did it. Some bloody idiot.
CRAWFORD: What kind of shark was it?
DARROCH: I don’t know. But it was a big fella, and it was sick.
CRAWFORD: How did they know it was sick?
DARROCH: Well, he was hanging around for a couple of days. He just wasn’t going anywhere, he was just sort of ambling along.
CRAWFORD: It could very well have been that it wasn’t sick, and that it wasn’t really ambling. There’s another very big shark called the Basking Shark, and they are just incredibly docile. They are often very slow - that's why they call them Basking Sharks. You’ll see them open their mouths and swim along while they are feeding. They’re plankton feeders. When was that again?
CRAWFORD: Who would be a good person to find out more about this? Would DOC [Department of Conservation] have a record of that maybe?
DARROCH: Yeah, it was in the paper. It was quite a story at the time. The silly bugger jumped over the side and killed it.
CRAWFORD: Killed it!
DARROCH: Yeah, just to be the hero. There’ll be a record of it somewhere, for sure.
CRAWFORD: if there was a local paper that covers that, which would it be?
DARROCH: The Southern Times.
CRAWFORD: Ok. We are doing work with the Southern Times already. I hope that story will come up there.
Copyright © 2017 Max Darroch and Steve Crawford