Experience: Pāua Diver, Spearfisherman, Surf Life Saver
Regions: Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Kaka Point, NZ
Interview Date: 17 February 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Paul Richardson and Steve Crawford
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: Getting back to your job at the freezer works - where was that?
RICHARDSON: Just outside of Balclutha. Probably 2-3 kilometres south of Balcutha.
CRAWFORD: Do you know what happens to the refuse, the offal, from the freezer works?
RICHARDSON: At that stage, it was treated and went into the Clutha River.
CRAWFORD: Treated, then discharged into the river, and then it was carried out into the bay?
CRAWFORD: Do you know what type of treatment it was?
RICHARDSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear from anybody working there, or anybody local, that there was ever any type of interaction between the freezer works waste and sharks?
CRAWFORD: Do you know of any other freezer works in the area?
RICHARDSON: The other closest one would be in Mataura, down in Southland.
CRAWFORD: Up the river?
RICHARDSON: It’s up the Mataura River, yeah. Some of these plants have closed, but there was a large plant down right at Bluff, called Ocean Beach.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever hear any stories about that plant?
CRAWFORD: You had mentioned Seals in abundance at Nugget Point. Are there other places that you are familiar with along the Catlins with significant numbers of Seals?
RICHARDSON: Probably fairly evenly distributed, I would suppose. But I think to be fair, that would be the higher concentration near Nugget Point. At Long Point, yeah, probably quite a few there as well.
CRAWFORD: With this region, for that period of time especially, any other accounts that you’ve heard about shark-human interactions?
CRAWFORD: Lets switch over to Stewart Island and the Titi Islands. If I heard you correctly, less time spent diving there, but that was because the Pāua were coming in faster and you were reaching your quota in less time?
CRAWFORD: For the 15 years when you were Pāua diving off that stretch of Stewart Island, if you added up the total number of days through the year when you were fishing there, roughly how many days were you in the water?
RICHARDSON: I would say two weeks.
CRAWFORD: When you got there, did anybody, any of the old-timers, or any of the local people, take you aside and say “You boys are Pāua fishing down here - you’ve got to know that there are White Pointers around”?
RICHARDSON: No, no.
CRAWFORD: It didn’t come out in discussion at all?
CRAWFORD: When you were out diving off Stewart Island or the Titi Islands, did you ever see any sharks of any kind?
CRAWFORD: I think you said that you were staying in Halfmoon Bay?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, we were either there or Port Adventure. Mainly Halfmoon Bay.
CRAWFORD: When you were in Halfmoon Bay, talking to people, did you ever remember hearing stories - people talking about White Pointers in that region?
RICHARDSON: No. The only time was actually one of the fellas I was diving with, off Edwards Island one day. We anchored the boat about 100 meters off the shore, it was reasonably shallow - maybe 30 feet. And just as I got in the water, he chucked me my gear, and then said “The last time I was here I got chased out of the water by a White Pointer.” Which made me feel a bit uneasy, because they all jumped in the dinghy and headed in close to shore, and left me out there. [laughs] He said it was a White Pointer but, once again, it’s hard to know.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember roughly when that was?
RICHARDSON: No, sorry.
CRAWFORD: I think you said Te Waewae Bay, you did some diving there in that northern region of Foveaux Strait - you already answered the question. You didn’t see any White Pointers along that stretch?
RICHARDSON: No. But one day, we were in the water, diving probably about 400 metres off shore ...
RICHARDSON: Round toward to Long Island, whatever it’s called. It’s about an hour by boat round from the beach. The reef goes out there a long way, and once again it’s probably about 25-30 feet. We were working out there about 400 meters offshore, very clear water and the fella I was diving with signaled and then said to me “Did you see that shark?” And I said “No.” And he says “Well it was swimming straight towards you.” But I don’t think it was large. I think he said he thought about 10 feet.
CRAWFORD: Ok. There is a variety of different types of shark in that region, and some of them are known to be curious.
CRAWFORD: In terms of old-timers, and the local people that you would have talked to along that stretch south of Fiordland, and also your experience up in Milford Sound ... did anybody there ever take you aside and warn you about White Pointers in the region, or at some points in the year, or whatever?
RICHARDSON: No, no. But generally, we didn’t have anything to do with the locals. We might get in there for the day, so we’d leave early in the morning and just launch from the beach. Occasionally we would talk with local fisherman and things, pull up beside them and have a quick yarn. Sorry, here’s something I do recall seeing - there was a large White Pointer hanging off a fishing boat in Riverton one day. It actually had its photo in the Southland Times. He was 5½ metres long. He was just caught off Centre Island.
CRAWFORD: You saw that shark?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, he was hanging up on the side of a fishing boat. There was an article in the Southland Times, the newspaper, about it.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember hearing the story about how it happened to be caught? The circumstances around it?
RICHARDSON: No, no. We just drove through actually, because we were driving through Riverton, and the fishing boat was there, and it was hanging on the boat.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the entire region, now I’m talking about the Nuggets over to Fiordland, have you ever heard of any intense interactions with White Pointers? In terms of aggression and/or attack in this region? Have you ever heard of anybody being attacked by a White Pointer down here?
CRAWFORD: In terms of aggregations or patterns in this general region ... If people are asking questions about where the animals are, and at what point in time, and what are they doing over the course of the year. Has anybody ever talked about that? Have you ever heard from any source, any explanation of why the White Pointers are here?
RICHARDSON: Someone did say they were talking about the ocean currents. Is it the Australian Current comes down the coast, and through [Foveaux Strait], and up here and heads east. I had always heard that there was a high number of sharks in this area, because of that warmer current coming through.
CRAWFORD: What was about the current you heard were important to the sharks?
RICHARDSON: It was just a warmer current that was rich with food sources. I don’t know if that’s right.
CRAWFORD: That’s ok.
Copyright © 2017 Paul Richardson and Steve Crawford