Nigel Young


YOB: 1965
Experience: Nature Tour Skipper, Boater
Regions: Otago
Interview Location: Dunedin, NZ
Interview Date: 04 December 2015
Post Date: 08 July 2017; Copyright © 2017 Nigel Young and Steve Crawford


CRAWFORD: Let's go back to your early days. What is the first age that you started to spend a significant amount of time around the water? 

YOUNG: From when I was born, really. I was born in Wellington hospital, but we lived right across the road from Cook Strait, right on the south coast.

CRAWFORD: Where about, specifically? 

YOUNG: Just here off Barrett’s Reef

CRAWFORD: In Wellington Harbour or outside? 

YOUNG: Outside of the harbour. There’s this channel here where the ships go. We’re right on the narrows there of the entrance, opposite Barrett’s Reef - which became well known through the sinking of the Wahine. That’s through the rocks, about half way down the channel. And on the far side of that channel, the ships come and go.

CRAWFORD: So that was home. You were a stone’s throw away from the water all the time. What is your first memory of spending time on the water? 

YOUNG: For my childhood, when I was small, my parents used to run a kayaking operation on the Whanganui River which is up the coast, it’s a large river. Used to run kayaking tours up and down. So, when I was tiny, my dad would be taking the passengers, the people, down the river. Mom and us kids would follow and set the camp site up for the people when they arrived for the night. And so we would play in the river a lot. I remember jumping and sliding in the river. But in the ocean, that was mostly boats. Dad had a sailboat, and ran a jet boat in the river. I also remember sailing with my uncle, we used to go sailing with all the family sometimes.

CRAWFORD: What age? Maybe, five or six, your Dad would take you out yachting? 

YOUNG: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Your activities would include yachting, boating, kayaking. Were you swimming as well? 

YOUNG: Yes, that was probably the most common thing.

CRAWFORD: Overall, roughly how much would swimming take up? 60%, 90%? 

YOUNG: 80%.

CRAWFORD: With a little bit of the other boating activities in there as well? 


CRAWFORD: Would that all have been on a seasonal basis? More summer than winter?

YOUNG: For our climate, more in the summer. Another place that was very influential in my young life was that we had a holiday house right in the Bay of Islands. Right up here, off Cooper’s Beach close to Maunganui. We would go up all the way for our six-week school holidays, and spend the summers there. We would spend the whole time in and around the beach. 

CRAWFORD: What kinds of activities? 

YOUNG: Line fishing off the wharf, swimming, boating.

CRAWFORD: So, if that’s your six-week holiday, for the rest of the year roughly how much time would you be spending around coastal waters? 

YOUNG: Really seasonal. Really summer activities. We would head to the beach when the weather was nice, and on the holidays. We would swim there sometimes, but often, that was in and around the coast. For instance, every day we would walk the dogs around the coast, or we would be looking down across the road across the beach, beach combing, or jumping on the rocks. There were a lovely set of rocks to run across. We would spend time on the beach quite regularly. Almost be a daily activity - maybe not daily, but close. 

CRAWFORD: When you think of the next significant change, maybe addition of an activity, or maybe relocation or whatever. What’s the next natural break point in your coastal experience? 

YOUNG: I think perhaps in terms of spending on the water, it was probably for me when I started sailing. 

CRAWFORD: You had joined a sailing club or yachting club? 

YOUNG: No. I just worked as crew for other people. I was never actually a member of a sailing club. I was just crew on yachts. But it became a regular thing on Saturdays or Sundays. 

CRAWFORD: How old were you when you started doing that? 

YOUNG: That may have been up around early 20s.

CRAWFORD: These are bigger yachts then? 

YOUNG: Yes. Keelers, racing yachts.

CRAWFORD: And this is based out of Wellington Harbour? 

YOUNG: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Where did you learn how to crew? Was that something you just picked up? 

YOUNG: Yes. Having grown up with my father’s and my uncle’s yachts - we used to go sailing with my uncle and his family sometimes. So it was quite natural for us to know what lines to pull, and what sails did, and how they needed to look. And Wellington, of course, it does blow. So we experienced through that time as a family on the water, an appreciation for the conditions and the mechanics. I went to go sailing just out of interest, as a hobby. Just started to spend time with different captains on their boats, and ended up jumping around boats over the years.

CRAWFORD: How big would these boats be roughly. 

YOUNG: Around 30 to 40 ft. 

CRAWFORD: And these were racing vessels? 


CRAWFORD: I imagine there was a seasonality to this sailing as well? 

YOUNG: Yes. There were winter and summer series, so for a couple of years I did both winter and summer series. The races would take maybe three hrs on a Saturday, or maybe just 1.5 hours on a Wednesday. But there would also be an off-shore series that would be a weekend away. So, we hit off across Cook Strait, or we would go around Island Bay, or take over here to the Brother, race out, around, and back. Sometimes we would race to Picton.

CRAWFORD: During the season, this would have been a once or twice a week thing, with the occasional weekend part. 

YOUNG: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Were you working, or going to school, or something else at the same time? 

YOUNG: I was working or at University.

CRAWFORD: How long does that go for? From your early 20s to when?

YOUNG: That was probably three to four years total, my sail racing properly. I think something like that. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. That takes us up to about 25. What happens then? 

YOUNG: I travel. 

CRAWFORD: Overseas? 

YOUNG: I spent a couple years in Australia. I was interested in boating. I went across, and was there for six months of the America's Cup. And I spent time working around Australia. 

CRAWFORD: Did you spend a significant amount of time on or around the water then? 

YOUNG: A bit. We had a flat for the summer by the river in Perth and of course, we swam a lot at Surfer's Paradise, where we were based for six months. 

CRAWFORD: That was at Perth? 

YOUNG: No, that was over in Brisbane - the Gold Coast on the eastern side. That was beach culture there. Did a little trek around the coast of Australia and ended up in Perth. 

CRAWFORD: When did you come back from this overseas experience? 

YOUNG: I came back from Australia for a year, worked, saved money, and moved off again. I think I was about 23 when I came back

CRAWFORD: Where did you come back to?

YOUNG: I came back to Wellington. I was working to save money to leave again. For a year or so. 

CRAWFORD: Did you spend a lot of time on the water or were you mostly working. 

YOUNG: I was living in Breaker Bay again with my family, at the family home. And working in Seatoun, on the coast of Wellington, inside the harbour. I was working and living around the water. 

CRAWFORD: Putting money in the bank. And then off again? 

YOUNG: Yes. To Canada.

CRAWFORD: How long did this overseas experience take you? 

YOUNG: That was over five years. Five and a half years, I was away. 

CRAWFORD: Off to Canada. Where else did you go? 

YOUNG: Spent some time in Canada, then drove up and spent a year and a half in Alaska. I worked in a ski field. And then worked on the fishing boats. Our fishing boat went out to Kodiak Island. It was contracted by Exxon because it was a reasonably quick salmon seiner, so we helped with the oil clean-up, and I got a good payout. Then I went back down to Vancouver, and bought a van and drove over the Rockies, and hung out for a while there. And ended up making my way across to the East Coast. 

CRAWFORD: You drove all across Canada? 

YOUNG: Yes. I drove across along the 48th parallel. It was a stop and start. Spent a few months in Toronto, and worked for a guy on the lake there. There were a lot of boats along the way! Went down to New Bedford in Boston, and back to Toronto, and then through the Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland. And then I hopped on a yacht in Prince Edward Island, and we sailed right down the east coast to the US Virgin Islands. We changed yachts in Bermuda though, because ours got damaged in a storm off the coast. Sailed to Saint Thomas USVI. Spent maybe nine months then working on boats around the Caribbean. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. So, you are overseas for five or so years. You’re going to be mid- to late-20s when you come back? Where did you come back to when you returned to New Zealand?

YOUNG: Wellington. 

CRAWFORD: What did you do, when you got back? 

YOUNG: I came back to study. I enrolled in Victoria University, and I started originally in anthropology, and then I moved into zoology. 

CRAWFORD: Social sciences, and then natural sciences. That would have been a four-year program? 

YOUNG: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Did you spend any significant time on or around New Zealand coastal waters during that four-year period? 

YOUNG: Yes, I was working on a ferry that goes across Wellington Harbour. This was my main job really, outside studies - part time job. The ferry takes people from Wellington Queen's Wharf across the harbour sometimes stopping at Matiu/Somes Island. I worked mostly weekends, which included doing interpreting for visitors to the island.

CRAWFORD: This is not just a commuter's ferry, it’s a tour ferry?

YOUNG: Indeed. It’s the only ferry really working on the harbour. And this island is lovely in the middle of the harbour. We would do regularly scheduled commuter trips in the morning and evening, and in the middle of the day to the Island.

CRAWFORD: How long did you do this?

YOUNG: Yeah, oh maybe two or three years. 

CRAWFORD: Just during the summers, or throughout the year? 

YOUNG: Throughout the year. 

CRAWFORD: Anything else in terms of significant amount of time on the water while in school?

YOUNG: I might well have been sailing then too. But not in a regular capacity as a regular crew. Kayaking then also.

CRAWFORD: You may have gone out of the harbour, but still pretty much in the general vicinity?

YOUNG: Quite similar to the sailing before, but not quite as often. 

CRAWFORD: And all of this extends to the end of your university days? 


CRAWFORD: And then what happened? 

YOUNG: A bit more travel. Over to Scandinavia, and then Asia. We came back to New Zealand and I enrolled in a University of Otago post-graduate course. That was 2003, approximately.

CRAWFORD: A post-graduate degree in what program? 

YOUNG: One year diploma in tourism. 

CRAWFORD: While you were doing that, were you spending any significant amount of time on the water? 

YOUNG: Not so much, no. 

CRAWFORD: After you get the diploma, then where do you go? 

YOUNG: Back to Wellington. Took my dissertation there, and I start working. While I was doing the diploma in Dunedin, I bought a house and that was across the road from the water. That’s where I’m living now - still by Otago Harbour. That’s as far as it goes really. After my diploma, I went to Wellington and started working in tourism taking nation-wide tourists on land-based eco-tour trips.

CRAWFORD: What regions of coastal New Zealand would be part of these tours then? 

YOUNG: This would be taking people down from Auckland around Coromandel then down around over Taranaki. So, we were camping as we worked our way down the coast around Taranaki, and a bit around King country. Most of the coastal work we did really was over there. 

CRAWFORD: How long did that job run?

YOUNG: Three seasons

CRAWFORD: Summer seasons?

YOUNG: Summer seasons, and a little bit of winter stuff. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. That brings us up to 2008. Then what happened?

YOUNG: Yeah, I started my business, Eco Tours Wellington. 

CRAWFORD: Were those tours terrestrial and aquatic?

YOUNG: A combination of tours. One of the tours was based on Kapiti Island I would pick people up in Wellington, drive them up there. This Island is a special place, a nature reserve and the local Māori, Ngati Toa, run an operation there, and do guided walks and things. I worked in conjunction with John Barrett who knows the area very well. Of course, his family has a lot of history there. So, we became concessioners to run the Department of Conservation guided walks there. These were day trips, and to get there you have to catch the ferry across. So I would pick people up, drive them out, catch a ferry across. Kapiti Island is a reserve, I should say, where there’s a lot of marine life, a marine reserve between the island and the mainland. The island itself is predator-free. so there are proper things there to see in terms of native species. So yeah, take them there for the day, take them back on the ferry and drive them home. This was my day, and often my night would be up at Zealandia, that’s another conservation island which is within the city - a fenced, mammal-free habitat. So, I did that for about six years. 

CRAWFORD: That takes you to about 2007? What happened then? 

YOUNG: I came to Dunedin.

CRAWFORD: How many years have you been here? 

YOUNG: That would probably be around the eight year mark.

CRAWFORD: When you moved here, did you start spending time on or around the water significantly from the very beginning? 

YOUNG: Yes, pretty much. 

CRAWFORD: Did you come for the job with Monarch Tours? 

YOUNG: It wasn’t long after. I was here to fix up my old house which was quite dilapidated at the time. I saw the Monarch sail past, I think in my first week. So I rung them up, and said “Do you need anyone?” I started on the Monarch in a limited capacity, I was skippering say a day and a half a week. Then I started another job too, running people over to Milford Sound. It was a driving job on a bus, but every day as a part of that I would go for two hours out on the boat, at Milford. 

CRAWFORD: How many days a week would you be out on the water at Milford Sound? 

YOUNG: I would be out three or four days a week. 

CRAWFORD: How long were you doing that? 

YOUNG: One year. But during that time, I would come back and work on the Monarch. Yeah, that was about a day and a half skippering, probably another day crewing a week, as well.

CRAWFORD: More like three days a week total on the Monarch then? 

YOUNG: Yeah, a lot of work during that time. 

CRAWFORD: But in that first year, when you’re not on the Monarch, you’re doing trips to Milford Sound, and you’re spending a couple of hours on the boat on the water in Milford Sound. Then what happened? 

YOUNG: My wife and I head back up to Wellington, just for a while. We had a few months there, maybe for a year I think, and then we came back down. While I was up there they brought me down a couple of times to work on the Monarch to help relieve when a skipper was sick, or having babies. So, I covered during several holiday and wasn’t that far removed. I came back because they offered me the head skipper’s role. 

CRAWFORD: When was that? 

YOUNG: That was about four years ago. 

CRAWFORD: When you decided to accept the head skipper position, that meant the bulk of your time was going to be on the Monarch. For the past four years, was there a seasonality for the time when you were on the water with the Monarch? 

YOUNG: No. But there’s a lot more time on the water in the summer, than in the winter. We have about five hours a day on the water in the winter and double that in the summer.

CRAWFORD: Every day that the weather allows? 

YOUNG: It’s not really weather-dependent. We can go whenever, pretty much. It’s pretty rare that we won’t go because of the weather. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. About five hours a day, for maybe four or five or five days a week? 

YOUNG: Maybe three or four days a week.

CRAWFORD: Does the Monarch always depart from the Dunedin Wharf or sometimes start out at Otakou?

YOUNG: No, we always depart from Dunedin. We leave here in the morning, and spend our day based at that wharf doing 60 or 90 minute tours from Otakou or Wellers Rock Wharf out around the heads of the peninsula.

CRAWFORD: I see. The trip from Dunedin Wharf is not so much for taking people …

YOUNG: Yeah, it’s just to get out there. But we do take people as well. We have buses, and they can hop on in Dunedin, drive out and see Otago Harbour, go to Port Chalmers. There’s a lot of action in the harbour for people. It’s a very shallow harbour and the wading birds are a big part of the show. We see Penguins quite regularly in the harbour, but other unusual species like Bar-Tailed Godwitts and Royal Spoonbills and Stilts as we head out.  There’s also the opportunity to see big things, sometimes. We see Whales and Dolphins, but really the birds are the main show going out of the harbour. It’s a lovely harbour, so it takes us an hour and a half to get from Dunedin to Wellers Rock Wharf. And then we pop in there, pick up more people, and then head out for an hour and a half around the Taiaroa Heads, and maybe a little further out offshore, which we spend half an hour beyond. 

CRAWFORD: And when you are past the Heads, do you go mostly to the south? Or sometimes to the north? 

YOUNG: Not often to the north. We follow the shore, and we follow the waves. We try to keep people comfortable and dry, so we try to head into the swell. We are restricted a little bit by the extent of the swell, as to how far out we can get, and the angle of our heading out will be dependent on the angle of the swell. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. That’s really been the last four years, with you as head skipper on the Monarch. Is there anything else in addition to your responsibilities for the Monarch over the last four years? Any other significant amount of time on or around the coastal waters of New Zealand? 

YOUNG: No, not so much. I swim you know, so I’m out there swimming. I swim from the beach sometimes in Otago Harbour, or out from St. Clair, St. Kilda - depending on the weather, if the weather is nice. 

CRAWFORD: Swimming a day a week, maybe? 

YOUNG: I’ll swim out in the ocean maybe … just in the summer, a total of half a dozen times, perhaps maybe 10 times. So, not that much. 


CRAWFORD: In a very general sense, can you describe the extent to which you’ve engaged with Māori culture and knowledge - how that might have informed your by knowledge of the world?

YOUNG:  I’d say in relation to nature, and the patterns of nature. That would be somewhere between medium and high. Not very high. In terms of where I get my knowledge from, I think they help me understand nature.

CRAWFORD: Can you help me understand your relationship with Māori culture?

YOUNG: Yeah, I’m really happy talking about this. It is quite a privilege to have had some opportunity to engage with the tangata whenua. It’s something that hadn’t happened to me much through my childhood. I grew up right through childhood as a connected family, you know fifth-generation Wellingtonian, but just small times of input from the Tangata whenua until a neighbour came to live next to our house at Braker Bay. They became friends of the family, and helped install some understanding of the Māori ways. Through those years, my teenage and early twenties, it wasn’t such a big factor for me. It would have been more influential perhaps if I was at a younger age. But what really made a difference for me, was connecting with the Maori on Kapiti Island, and spending time getting to know their island, and some of their history and to be able to interpret that to the visitors to the island, which included tangata whenua, and many New Zealanders who would come to a conservation island for the first time and want to know about the Māori history. There’s extensive Māori history on Kapiti. It had been the living space for Te Rauparaha, a famous New Zealand chief, and this was of much interest to the visitors. So that was a big part of the interpretation that we gave to the visitors to the island. All the visitors had about a half-hour introductory talk, and then would go on walks. There was also an overnight component where they would be hosted with the [Barrett] family. The accommodation was up on the north end of the island, so this was an overnight stay, it would be a day and a night - sometimes a weekend. Showing them the island, and the flora and fauna, and also discussing parts of the history - that’s what I was asked to do. So, this took extensive training to be able to do this task. It took many hours of discussions with their teachers, before I started to work. I worked full-time there, sometimes six or seven days a week doing this work - taking people over to the island, and giving them this interpretation and the overnight thing too, living with them was part of my learning. John’s family, and in particular, John’s sister Amo, they were a big part of my learning of what connected with what. 

CRAWFORD: The culture, the knowledge system …

YOUNG: Yeah. The season, the storm, it calls the fruit, it calls the bird, it calls the insect, it calls the gathering, it calls the story, and the cycles started to become clear to me through these years of interconnectedness. This is so different to science which is often piecemeal and not connected. It doesn't feel so connected. Anyways, that was there.

CRAWFORD: That’s very helpful. It’s going to give readers another dimension to understand the knowledge that you are sharing. Let’s do the same thing with science: where would you put your interaction to the extent that knowledge system has informed your understanding of marine ecosystems generally?

YOUNG: I would say high. 

CRAWFORD: What would you point to, that would put it in the high category?

YOUNG: Through study and through reading of science studies. 

CRAWFORD: You had some formal training. Please tell me about that.

YOUNG: My formal training would be my studies at the University of Victoria, and to an extent here [University of Otago].

CRAWFORD: If I recall, Victoria was a four-year program, first anthropology, then zoology?


CRAWFORD: You have a BSc?

YOUNG: No, a BA. 

CRAWFORD: A baccalaureate and then a one year post graduate diploma. To what degree did non-formal/non-degree experience provide you with science knowledge? What other kinds of activities?

YOUNG: Our work here at Monarch, looking through the seasons for wildlife.

CRAWFORD: Otago Harbour and out off the Heads?

YOUNG: Informal learning from trial and error, being charged with having to find what’s out there.

CRAWFORD: Would you go online looking for natural history or ecology papers? Would you be watching documentaries or sharing resources with other naturalists? 

YOUNG: A little. Particularly with looking up papers, looking up some details. I would certainly target those areas in the media, and be engaged in that conversation of interest. I feel that I am somehow expected to have a bit of knowledge, so I seek the information out. Or if I hear of it, to search and be up-to-speed. 

CRAWFORD: Have you had any experiences where the Monarch was chartered by researchers, or have you ever worked with a research project in some capacity? 

YOUNG: I have in different ways. At Zealandia, the place was full of studies, and I would work taking surveys and collecting data and accompany people to give them access or guide them in ways and monitoring predators/ I would run traplines here at Otakou or Wellington or wherever. Monarch and our other vessel Vivian J is regularly chartered to assist with research projects.


CRAWFORD: What is your first recollection that there was this animal called a White Pointer in New Zealand coastal waters? First memories? 

YOUNG: As young kids. swimming at the holiday house. I remember swimming, with a life guard yelling “shark!” And we’d have to get out of the water. This happened a number of times. Not sure how often it was valid. 

CRAWFORD: Were you less than ten?

YOUNG: Yes, probably three, four or five years old. 

CRAWFORD: Maybe not White Pointer in particular, but a shark in a beach environment. In that context, did you ever see a shark? 

YOUNG: Yes. This is one time which is strong in my memory, and whether it be a Great White, as I thought it was at the time, I don’t know.

CRAWFORD: How old? 

YOUNG: Really young, maybe four or five. 


YOUNG: Bay of Islands, looking down from a hill to a little cove in the beach. 

CRAWFORD: Time of year? 

YOUNG: Summer.

CRAWFORD: Time of day? 

YOUNG: Midday. There was a shark just cruising the beach in the shallows. It was a white sand beach, and we were looking down from above. We could see a clear silhouette of this big animal with shark swimming motion. It was obviously a large shark. We watched in silence - the motion of the shark swimming so close to the beach. It went around the bay, and then left.  That is a vivid memory where it was very close and menacing. I felt the scale of it, I think it must have been a Great White Shark. 

CRAWFORD: You said it was, or was not, menacing? 

YOUNG: It fits in with the shout of “Shark!” on a beach, and the collective terror of the people running out. Everyone just wants to go in the water, so everyone’s asking “Is it gone yet?”  

CRAWFORD: Do you remember anything about shape or coloration? 

YOUNG: It was silhouetted, so it was dark. I remember in exact detail. Shape of that very broad stomach, head. And it really comes out and narrows to the tail. 

CRAWFORD: Tell me more about its swimming behaviour. 

YOUNG: Quite close to the beach. Fluid and slow, symmetrical and graceful. It was calm. 

CRAWFORD: Did it come back at any point?

YOUNG: It just followed the coast line, and then moved on. It came in close to the sandy bay, and then went out beyond the rocks. 

CRAWFORD: Total amount of time looking down, was anything there around it? 

YOUNG: No, nothing was there. 

CRAWFORD: Notice anything about the mouth or the fins? 

YOUNG: No, the fin was underwater. We could just see the shape of the shark.

CRAWFORD: total amount of time that you saw it? 

YOUNG: Seconds. 

CRAWFORD: [Discussion about project classification levels for human encounters with White Pointers: Level 1-Observation, Level 2-Swim-By, Level 3-Interest, Level 4-Intense] Using this system, if you were on shore and up, this would have been a Level 1?

YOUNG: Yes. 

CRAWFORD: Have you seen any other White Pointers, or animals that could have been White Pointers, in the rest of the time that you have been around New Zealand coastal waters?


CRAWFORD: Back to your North Island days. You obviously had the experience of swimming around these beaches, and it was very real - both the shark alarm but also the associated behaviour. Do you remember if the old-timers had said anything about sharks? “Do this” or “Don’t do that”? 

YOUNG: No. Our mom would have told us to listen to the lifeguard, and she would have been worried about us in the water, and we would have had to hop out quick. But otherwise, I can’t really remember much advice coming about sharks. 

CRAWFORD: At the holiday house, do you remember other experiences that other people may have had with sharks?

YOUNG: No. My uncle ran a fishing boat out of Northland, Doubtless Bay, catching Snapper mostly. 

CRAWFORD: But did anyone else have any Level 1 to 4 interactions?


CRAWFORD: Ok. That’s northern North Island. You also spent a significant amount of time around Wellington. You’ve already said that you never saw any White Pointers. But did the old-timers ever say anything about them? 

YOUNG: No. I must admit I can’t remember any advice or discussions about what they may have seen. I was young. The movie ‘Jaws’ came out - this really brushes across my whole memory. That movie was discussed, and the image of the shark was created, and still continues in the vein from that movie. I remember it being very influential for me. 

CRAWFORD: How did it influence you? 

YOUNG: Paranoia. 

CRAWFORD: How would this have changed your behaviour, would you not have gone swimming because of that movie? 

YOUNG: It’s a factor. I used to swim a lot more in shore, and it was a big part of my thinking when I was in the water. It was a big part of my determination to not fall prey to these paranoias when I’m in the water. It’s a big part of when I’m in the water as to is there anything. Looking around, “Don’t be silly, there’s nothing there.” But it’s paranoia with I think little foundation outside that movie. 

CRAWFORD: When you say little foundation, does that mean that you hadn’t heard anything from any other credible source?

YOUNG: I knew there had been shark attacks, been people killed. Taken by sharks, down here and up there. But there may have been one person died 15 years ago, with no recorded bite for over a decade. And there are how many people in the water every day? So, the rationale is that the chances are so small that to be thinking of it this much, it just becomes a paranoia. This is how I legitimize it in my mind - that you should go swimming if you want to go swimming. This should not be a factor. It’s a factor of keeping people out of the water for sure. There must be something human to that predator-prey relationship that makes the paranoia more vivid. 

CRAWFORD: Just to round out your Wellington-Cooks Strait experience. The time that you spent there, in that region did the old-timers ever say anything about White Pointers? 

YOUNG: Not that I recall. 

CRAWFORD: In terms of your later years, you’ve had experience in the Otago region, and you’ve also have some experience taking people out on Milford Sound. In those contexts, you never saw any white sharks when you were there - but while you were there, did you ever hear of anyone else, the old-timers or your contemporaries, talk about White Pointers? 


CRAWFORD: With regards to your most recent experiences as skipper of the Monarch, you’ve made hundreds of trips along the Otago Harbour, out past Aramoana and the Mole, past the Taiaroa Heads - and you have never seen any White Pointers during those trips?


CRAWFORD: And your job is to be looking for wildlife?

YOUNG: I spend a lot of time attached to the binoculars. If I saw anything unusual, we would just take the boat over to check it out. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. Let’s divide things by region. For the upper harbour, have you ever see any sharks? 


CRAWFORD: In the lower harbour, ever see any sharks? 


CRAWFORD: For either upper or lower harbour, have you heard of anyone who had seen a shark? 

YOUNG: Just through the photos. The photo of the Great White that was captured, and there are some photos in the museum, and some in the literature of the Great White. Macandrew Bay, wasn’t there one of a jaw? That was in the 1920’s or 30’s or something. 

CRAWFORD: Almost 100 years ago. 

YOUNG: Yeah. 

CRAWFORD: Ok. So, you have been exposed to the presence of White Pointers in this region, historically. Do you ever talk to the local fishermen? 

YOUNG: Yeah.

CRAWFORD: Do they ever say that they’ve seen something? 


CRAWFORD: In the outer harbour, there’s a much larger fleet in the other side, at Port Chalmers-Carey’s Bay. What do you know about the activities of those vessels, specifically in terms of fishing? 

YOUNG: I know they fish for different species throughout the year. So, they change their gear according to the season. The abundance and patterns. They are quite consistent when they go out and come back in. Whenever they are coming from a little bit, and the weather around when you’re likely to go out or not. Otherwise we do work at Carey’s Bay sometimes. We always wave when we’re going through. Now and then, we’ll get a call from some boats if there’s something of interest such as a whale sighting. 

CRAWFORD: And you’ve not heard anything from the fishing fleet on the other side about White Pointers? 

YOUNG: Understand that as a conservation boat, a boat engaged in eco-tourism, we probably wouldn’t be too privy to some of the conversations that fisherman would have between each other. We do share the same harbour, but we are not birds of a feather. There are legalities around catching and cleaning of fish around the harbour entrance which may have been put in place to preserve the integrity of the wildlife around the Heads. And the fisherman may in some way feel disgruntled, and perhaps some of that sentiment may be directed towards to the eco-tourism industry. 

CRAWFORD: With regard to cleaning fish around the harbour, what do you know about the history of that issue? 

YOUNG: The fisherman clean the catch on the way home. There will be someone driving the boat at the helm. And they will be gutting and filleting fish, depending on the species, on the way home. This would occur as you travel back in. Bringing the birds and other animals in with them, as there is food in bite-size chunks. They would have a big plume of birds behind them. This becomes a bit of a bird magnet. 

CRAWFORD: Was this your experience since you’ve been here? 

YOUNG: Always the case. 

CRAWFORD: So, if you see a big group of birds behind a fishing boat is it very likely the case that boat is processing their catch?

YOUNG: Sometimes its hosing. The birds will be drawn by the smell. They will often be drawn. You can tell by the species, and numbers of the birds, whether or not there is actually food in the water or being pushed over the boat, or whether it is just that they are cleaning their fishing gear. 

CRAWFORD: What are the hallmarks for that? 

YOUNG: The big birds that we focus on, ocean species like Giant Petrels and different species of Albatross. 

CRAWFORD: If you see those birds behind a boat …

YOUNG: There is proper food to be had. Some of the boats bring in a wide array of species, in sheer quantities and diversity. Hundreds of birds around one boat. This is obvious from a long way out. This has importance for us because we have people coming a long way to see these unusual species. These birds fly naturally up and down the coast, and when there’s food at a boat, they go there. So, if we are looking for birds, and a boat is coming in, the chance of seeing a bird in our location is reduced because many of the birds go where the food is. 

CRAWFORD: And you don’t feed?

YOUNG: No, we don’t feed. We find them anyway. It just takes a bit more work to find them. When we do, its natural contact. 

CRAWFORD: You mentioned the issue of cleaning fish around the mouth of the harbour.

YOUNG: Some legislation came out … wasn’t it about three or four years ago? It was in relation to Albatross, the bycatch of Albatross. The damage being done to Albatross saw new regulations around how close to shore the fishermen were allowed to clean fish. Regulations started coming to us about how they were to dispose of their offload. Could be frozen, and dumped in as blocks, or dumped at night. But there were some new regulations about how it was to be disposed of. 

CRAWFORD: Is this just in the Otago Peninsula context? Or New Zealand-wide? 

YOUNG: I don’t know. 

CRAWFORD: Who can I follow up with about the legislation? 

YOUNG: Shawn Hazeltine.

CRAWFORD: Interesting that there is this connection between the offloading and the Albatross, as a key part of the discussion. You also talked about it in a broader context of birds following boats while they are processing or cleaning. Perhaps other things would follow as well. Do you know of any observations of sharks following fishing boats? 

YOUNG: Possibly. We have for instance the sea lion. That’s a big predator that we see on a regular basis. Sometimes you see fishermen cleaning fish and dropping cod frames, in comes a Sea Lion, a big beast, maybe 400 kg. This is a marine mammal with a highly attuned sense of smell and movement far in excess of anything we have, and they are intelligent. Probably knows the boat, time, season, the likelihood of there being food. Smells it, sees it. Comes to check it out. It cruises around where it got success in the past, and is a lot more prevalent around there. So now there are efforts to stop dropping the frames there, because kids are swimming nearby. Sometimes the kids are swimming there and you might have seen this massive big Sea Lion one or two hours before at 2 m depth, right in same spot. What we really are reliant on is the intelligence of the Sea Lion to know the difference, and have the taste and preference of the fish frames rather than the kids. These animals aren’t silly. We underrate their intelligenc but are also tempting fate. So, dropping fish frames is now banned and the fishermen are taking their guts and frames out to deep water, at some cost to themselves. 

CRAWFORD: Roughly when did these regulations change?

YOUNG: One or two years ago. 

CRAWFORD: Would that be a Ministry of Primary Industries issue? 

YOUNG: The local policemen enforce it. Not MPI. 

CRAWFORD: We were discussing the upper and lower harbour. Have you heard of anyone else who has seen White Pointers in the harbour? 


CRAWFORD: How far offshore does your work on the Monarch take you? 

YOUNG: We usually go four nautical miles offshore. Very occasionally six or so. Sometimes alongshore of Cape Saunders. We don’t tend to follow the shoreline. But the abundance is further off. We head off, and then down. We might come back for the shelf at some point, depending on the wind, but we tend to go on an arc here.

CRAWFORD: But you have a substantial offshore component for the Monarch tours?

YOUNG: After half an hour we would have completed the trip from Wellers Rock, and had a close look around the Taiaroa Head - that’s where we really are close, looking at the Seal colony, the Shag colony, the Spoonbill colony, the Royal Albatross colonies, and after that half hour, we’ll head out offshore. And we’ll have that half an hour going out looking and then coming back to the wharf. So that will normally give us maybe a 15 minute window of freedom, when the skipper and the crew are looking after the guests, and looking for where the abundance lies. 

CRAWFORD: In terms of sharks offshore, you already said you haven’t seen any White Pointers. Have you seen any sharks at all? 

YOUNG: Yes, Blue Sharks occasionally. But I don’t really know the difference from a fin. It’s very rare, and it’s only at those key times when the fish are swarming and the krill are soup. 

CRAWFORD: What season is that, typically? 

YOUNG: Mostly summer. It comes from summer into autumn. 

CRAWFORD: What do you know about the marine ecological productivity in the Otago Peninsula region? And the factors that affect the productivity?

YOUNG: This is a combination of factors, of course, that makes this an area of abundance. Most influential is the Southern Current coming up the coast, and the sub-tropical water off the Tasman Sea coming round the Foveaux Strait, then coming up here. It’s species-rich but nutrient poor, this Southern Current. It’s relatively warm water for us, and comes up quite quickly along the coast. Then it gets pushed away, following Cape Saunders, and here there’s an eddy. 

CRAWFORD: Just north of the peninsula, there’s a back eddy caused by the Southern Current?

YOUNG: Due to the shape of the Otago Peninsula, and that almost 90 degree corner of Cape Saunders. The Southern Current gets pushed away, and comes back in around Blueskin Bay and the mouth of the Otago Harbour.

CRAWFORD: How does that back eddy relate then to the nutrients and species richness? 

YOUNG: Here’ve you’ve got the cold sub-Antarctic water from further offshore, that is all those species-poor, nutrient-rich waters. 

CRAWFORD: And do the two currents collide? Do they mix?

YOUNG: They mix. I think these tide lines as they spin … there’s a mixing process. But particularly around that boundary of those mixing currents, the tide lines, there’s a blossoming of phytoplankton.

CRAWFORD: On a regional basis, where are the hot spots - from your understanding? 

YOUNG: That changes with the speed and flow and the tides.

CRAWFORD: So, directly off the Otago Peninsula, off Cape Saunders - that would be a particularly rich area? 

YOUNG: Yes, as I see it in my experience of this little piece of this big coast! 

CRAWFORD: Is your experience based largely on visual observations of the birds, and what the birds are doing? 

YOUNG: Yes, and the water itself. The colors of the water. The difference is evident to the eye. 

CRAWFORD: What color characteristics? 

YOUNG: Shades of blue. Light blue and dark blue. 

CRAWFORD: What do the southern waters look like? 

YOUNG: Just the different bodies of water. And between them you’ve got detritus. This is obvious in the water bubbles, but weird rubbish. Lots of sea weed, all different types.

CRAWFORD: How do you think the currents around the Otago Peninsula might relate to the distribution and abundance of White Pointers here?

YOUNG: I’ve heard the southern current finished here. A dead end. The Great Whites follow this warmer flow, and then it comes to the end, so they go back. This is what I understand. Don’t know where I heard it. 

CRAWFORD: Like a corridor? 

YOUNG: Like a dead end, like a cul-de-sac. 

CRAWFORD: If the White Pointers were following this water mass, up this conveyor belt …

YOUNG: Yes, then it stops. There’s colder water because of that cold inflow. So there’s this period of feeding and then a decision to turn around and head back. So maybe they cluster at the end of the cul-de-sac?

CRAWFORD: That with the combination of the presence of abundant food. That’s very interesting - I’ve never heard that before. You’re quite correct, the three places that come up consistently as New Zealand White Pointer hotspots are Stewart Island, Otago Peninsula and the Chatham Islands. Which seem to be connected by a single, major current. 

YOUNG: Very long-ranging animals.

CRAWFORD: They certainly can be. 

YOUNG: The Orca … we thought we knew Orca. And then these different behaviours and breeds emerge. I’m sure it is the same for the Great Whites. 

CRAWFORD: Tell me about the marine mammals on the Otago Peninsula. 

YOUNG: The Fur Seals go to these deepwater canyons. They are here because of reliable fishing. 

CRAWFORD: Eight km offshore? 

YOUNG: Ten miles offshore. We’ve got these deepwater canyons where the water drops away. 

CRAWFORD: And those canyons are loaded with fish?

YOUNG: Yes, in these upwellings there are squid, Arrow Squid particularly, that do a vertical migration, It always tries to keep with the light at a constant level, so at the night time, it comes up closer to the surface. 

CRAWFORD: So, a daily vertical migration, and the Seals are actively feeding on the Squid? 


CRAWFORD: Fish as well? 

YOUNG: The Seals feed on the fish as well, yes. 

CRAWFORD: So, very rich aquatic productivity, and then you’ve got Seals that are taking advantage of that proximity - going out there and feeding. 

YOUNG: And a place to raise their young.

CRAWFORD: You believe that for Seals it is a combination of good feeding and a good place to raise their young? 

YOUNG: Yes. I think the types of terrain here, the rocks, and relative protection, of the Otago Peninsula. Being not that populated, and topographically challenging for people who go there. Less disturbance, some protection, the Seals can breed here in relative peace. With that abundance of food just off the shore, you know, for the young. So that’s the Fur Seal. The Sea Lions, they breed around here and path a course right down this coast. I think it’s a consequence of that food abundance and perhaps this relative isolation too. They are up the sandy beaches more, and they are more likely to encounter people around the sandy beaches 

CRAWFORD: Yes, I’ve heard a bit about Sea Lion-Human encounters on the beaches. 

YOUNG: There may likely be found more on isolated beaches, but they will certainly sleep there happily as a dog, or a horse or a number of people walk by sometimes. They are not afraid like the Seals, they’re a lot more confident. In terms of their sheer size, and in terms of their instincts to ‘rule the roost.’ Yesterday we had a female Sea Lion off Aramoana all day. Unusual. She’s 12 years or so, as I understand. So yeah, good fishing, relative safely. We’re seeing them re-establish this coast as they start to spread further up New Zealand, and there’s good fishing again along the coast.

CRAWFORD: Have you heard, or seen any indirect evidence of what could be shark attacks on Seals or Sea Lions? Scarring, or carcasses with bites out of them, that kind of thing? 

YOUNG: We do see, now and then, bites or scars on an animal, and we would say it could be a shark. 

CRAWFORD: Seals or Sea Lions? 

YOUNG: Seals. 

CRAWFORD: Do you see any floating carcasses of seals? 

YOUNG: Yes, sure.

CRAWFORD: Fresh bits and pieces, or just old carcasses rotting apart?

YOUNG: Oh, old and falling apart. We’ll see them through that process. We’ll see them become sick sometimes, and see them in the currents. We’ll see them repeatedly. We might see them every day, and then not see them for a while, and then “Look, there it is.” And then we’ll see the process of others starting to feed on it. And then you might see it in a more dilapidated state. So that’s a process. 

CRAWFORD: Do you ever see any Whales in this region? 


CRAWFORD: Do you ever see any Whale carcasses in this region? 

YOUNG: No, I haven’t. Although I’ve heard they wash up.

CRAWFORD: What about Dolphins? 

YOUNG: In the harbour and out.

CRAWFORD: What times of year do you see them? 

YOUNG: Right through the year, but particularly the spring is great for the Hector’s Dolphins and the Duskys as well. Right through the summer, and into the autumn. More so in the spring summer autumn, than in the winter. 

CRAWFORD: I’ve hear accounts of massive pods moving along this coastline.

YOUNG: Yeah, Duskys. Might be in the 100’s. Not so common, really. But we’ll see these pods a dozen times a year, and smaller pods - family groupings - are here feeding a lot more regularly. We’ve had them all week - feeding just offshore here. Hector’s Dolphins, which live around in this big bay and are ometimes seen in the harbour. Both the Dusky’s and the Hector’s use this as a nursery area for their young. They’ll have the little pod family grouping, with the young dolphin - and they’re very inquisitive to come and see the boat. We’ll turn the motor off, stop the prop, and encourage them to come and look and learn. We encounter them on a daily basis, and when it’s windy there, we might see them five times in a day, and then we might not see them for a day, and then we’ll see them for three days in a row. So it’s very random when we see them. But we’re certainly looking. And when there’s abundance, there they are. 

CRAWFORD: Abundance of what? 

YOUNG: Schooling fish, and krill. We get big schools of Pilchards and Mullet and Spratt.

CRAWFORD: When do you see those? 

YOUNG: Sunday, we saw a balling school of Pilchards by the multiples of thousands, and the Dusky Dolphins picking them off and balling them up. And of course, it’s a free-for-all for the birds above. 

CRAWFORD: It sounds like the natural equivalent to dumping cod frames fish guts in the sea. These birds are going to respond every time there’s an aggregation of fish, live or dead? 


CRAWFORD: Do you know anything at all about local meat effluents? Are there any sources of organic effluence into the general region of the Otago Peninsula that you are aware of?  

YOUNG: Well, yes of course the municipal sewage of Dunedin is discharged off of St. Kilda. I think its one km offshore, with the new part being built. Of course, now it’s a processed secondary approach. Secondary is not screened for size.

CRAWFORD: Do you know of any other types of effluents?

YOUNG: The historical one of the Otakou fish processing plant dropping its offal down through a tube. off the cliffs of the Taiaroa Headland. 

CRAWFORD: On the outside?

YOUNG: Yes. Backed the trucks up and, as I understood, put the offal into the shoot - straight to the water. 

CRAWFORD: That’s something from the previous generation. Do you know roughly when that stopped? 

YOUNG: Don’t know. 

CRAWFORD: Do you know of any other stories, historical or contemporary about offal effluent around this region? 

YOUNG: No, not off hand. 

CRAWFORD: Do you know how offal is dealt with from the fishing fleet over at Carey’s Bay?

YOUNG: Not really. They clean the catch, and of course they dispose of the offal I presume seems like they do that coming in. Again, it comes back to those regulations. Speaking of the offal and the accumulation of the food and the abundance here, we should speak too about the outflow of the harbour here with these tides. It is a big factor, I feel, on the area of feeding for the different species depending on the tide. The plume that comes out from the eddy and the harbour. And, of course, Blueskin Bay, it’s very abundant - this shallow estuary and it’s a lot of organic matter comes out. Not just from the humans, but from the freshwater inflow to the saltwater body. You’ve got run-off from the city and from the university campus for instance. That’s how large the freshwater influence is that runs right past us here. So it comes through the city, and then out into the harbour, and then in conjunction with the natural abundance of the warm plankton-fed highly productive sand flats. You see the fish larvae taking advantage to breed and graze here, and so with the tide coming out, you’ve got this distinct plume.

CRAWFORD: There is this pulse from the human-related productivity, and you believe that that’s another contributing factor to the ecological activity offshore of the Otago Peninsula?

YOUNG: Yeah, I see three things. I see the currents and mixing, I see the upwellings of the deepwater canyons, and I see the outflow from these embayments. 

CRAWFORD: Outflow and tidal flush? Combination of the two?

YOUNG: Yeah. The Dolphins, for instance, will be much more likely to be out there with the evening tide.

CRAWFORD: Out there at the mouth of the harbour?

YOUNG: There are two or three mouths that open there, and so we are looking for Dolphins, and we know when we see the tide, perhaps the target. That fish is the feature on our documentation. Every day we come back, and we record what we’ve seen. So, we have a strong record of documentation going back 15 to 20 years. Every day, species sighted. And then these forms, we fill in more detail some of the more dramatic sightings around the marine mammals. We record what were they doing,and what was the tide flow. 

CRAWFORD: What do you think was the strongest association between tidal condition and activity? 

YOUNG: Ebbing tide. When it’s coming out, that plume of water flowing out helps brings the abundance.

CRAWFORD: One way or another, that triggers the fish, which in turn triggers the Dolphins?

YOUNG: You see the birds just cruising back and forth. They come down here where the eddy and the tide comes out. That plume, they’re just going backwards and forwards over the plume. 

CRAWFORD: What do you know about the attacks that took place historically around this region? 

YOUNG: Ah, not much really. Just that there was, was it two fatal and one near-fatal at St. Clair/St. Kilda and one out at Aramoana was it? 

CRAWFORD: Do you know anything about these attacls, other than that they occurred in these two general locations? 

YOUNG: Yeah, the short time. Was it 1960s or something, I don’t think it was much before. And nothing after. So it has occurred to me that it is strange how it was so concentrated in time and severity. 

CRAWFORD: That has occurred to other people as well. Do you have any thinking about why they happened like that?

YOUNG: No. Maybe culture developed amongst a family of sharks?

CRAWFORD: Or even in one individual. It could be that just one White Pointer developed that behaviour? 

YOUNG: Yeah, right. 

CRAWFORD: Is it the type of thing that ever gets discussed among people you know? Shark attacks?

YOUNG: It’s a question from the tourists. They’ll want to know, “Do you have any Sharks on the commentary? Depending on the crew, if there are kids around, you know you might say “Some White Sharks come around here.” They can see the little Seal pups and the moms and the dads. And you can see the pups playing in the rock pools, so part of the commentary, leads to the fact that they go to the big ocean where the predators live, and the top predators that we have here for Fur Seals are Leopard Seals, Sea Lions, the White Pointer Shark and the occasional Orca. You do see them cruising and hunting right by the fur seal colony. 

CRAWFORD: You see what?

YOUNG: The Orca and the Sea Lions hunting. And they’re not silly. They’re very good hunters. They’ll hide behind the outcropping of rocks. They’ll wait there. You can sit and observe this. There are times when you see the hunting behaviour. Also interesting for the Orca, you see them showing the calves how to hunt here. This is important for us, because we have to look for them. I can pass on incidents from last summer when we had a pod of Orca here, and the mom was hunting and close by the rocks, there was a dad and a calf here too. And the dad starts swimming out in one direction, a regular pattern of rising and falling - he had drawn the boat away. We followed the dad. And it was like “This is too good to be true.” I didn’t trust him all of a sudden, he’s being too good and too consistent. So, I look back and keep looking at the Seal colony, and there was the mum and pup right next to the seals. So I turned the boat around to show the people where the show was. They are really smart you know! This dad was taking us away. He’s not silly. Another time last summer, a calf came and parked under the boat, with his head and tail visible from either side. He wanted to come and see the people and the boat. The dad came back and pushed the calf away, pushed the calf away! The calf leaves but then comes back again. So the calf comes and does the same thing again. And this time before the dad comes all the way back, the calf peels off and joins them again. It’s these behaviours that we are trying to show the people. The hunting, for instance. When you see a Sea Lion there, and you know where he’s going to go. You have to position yourself to where the best viewing spot will be. You can see the Sea Lion come up for breath. It’s a weird manipulating. We’re trying to engage, but not impact. But we are trying to show people the natural order of things. So we’ll have to be, using our memory and experience to understand where the best chance of success is to show our people the realities in the wild. We try hard not to have influence or impact the wildlife. This is some trouble we go to, to that end. Yesterday we had half a dozen juvenile Albatross doing wing displays on the water. So, we come right up here on the boat. How to approach this congregation to not disrupt. If we come too close, they will be looking at us and we’re looking at them. If we come in from downwind - really slowly, which is really important - we can get closer, and then people can see their natural behaviours. That’s the key. If we can sail away, and the birds are still doing their things then we’re not impacting them. Then it’s a successful contact for us. 

CRAWFORD: And as you said before, you do not feed the birds. 

YOUNG: We don’t really need to.

Copyright © 2017 Nigel Young and Steve Crawford