Experience: Recreational Fisherman
Regions: Canterbury, Catlins
Interview Location: Curio Bay, NZ
Interview Date: 11 January 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Steve Hill and Steve Crawford
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: What’s the first age that you recall either hearing about White Pointers or seeing a White Pointer?
HILL: It would be on tv. I’ve never seen one myself.
CRAWFORD: Seen on tv as a kid?
HILL: Probably between the age of 12 and 15.
CRAWFORD: So, when you were actively pursuing fishing as a big hobby - at some point in there you would have seen White Pointers on a tv program?
CRAWFORD: Do you remember as a kid, fishing around Banks Peninsula and in the region up around Kaikoura, do you ever remember the old-timers talking about White Pointers?
CRAWFORD: When your family finally said yes, you’re able to run the boat on your own - there was never any shark warning, or any kind of caution about places, nothing like that?
CRAWFORD: Do you remember in those early days, any type of shark-human interactions - not necessarily attacks - but did you ever hear of any type of shark interactions at the beach or people out in boats or anything like that?
HILL: Well, the only thing we heard of was the Sevengillers, and we would sometimes catch those in our nets.
CRAWFORD: So Sevengillers were definitely there, and they would occasionally get wrapped up in your gear?
HILL: And now and then when we were fishing, you’d see them going round the boat and that. But not very often.
CRAWFORD: The Sevengillers?
HILL: Yes, yes.
CRAWFORD: When you were out there, and you saw a Sevengiller in the wild, how did you know that it was a Sevengiller?
HILL: Just by what we’ve been told, the look of them. We used to catch them sometimes. It's got a very long tail, its top teeth are like needles, its bottom teeth are serrated like a leaf and that, yeah.
CRAWFORD: Did you ever have any situation that you can recall, when these Sevengillers would be paying particular attention to boats, or following fish that you had on a line as you were reeling them in? Did you ever have any situations like that?
HILL: No, no, no.
CRAWFORD: Do you ever remember anything from those days about sharks at beaches, or people having to come in from swimming because sharks had been seen? Anything like that?
HILL: No, no, nothing. Only thing I hear now, is surfers come into the shop, and they say out here in Porpoise Bay, that they get bumped. Nick [Smart] may have mentioned something in his interview, every now and then they’d get a bump and that, you know?
CRAWFORD: Those people, that may be their first encounter with a shark of any kind. Do they know what kind of shark it was that was bumping them?
HILL: No, most people you talk to have been surfing all their lives. These are not just your everyday person - these are people doing this all their lives.
CRAWFORD: These seasoned boarders, do they know what kind of shark it is that’s been bumping them? Do they say anything about that?
HILL: No. I’ve asked them, and some said it could have been a Sevengiller. Most, they don’t really say.
CRAWFORD: When you moved here 10 years ago, and you started getting your boat out, did the locals or old-timers give you a heads-up about things to watch out for here?
HILL: Well, when I come down here, they told me out in the boat, once again, Stuart Harvey, I went out with him, he showed me the way to get out of the bay safely.
CRAWFORD: is there a bar that you have to be careful with?
HILL: No, not really a bar. A set of rocks, and the basic channel - but to watch these rocks, you don’t get too far over, and blow the bottom of your boat out.
CRAWFORD: Stuart took you out and showed you the lay of bay?
CRAWFORD: Did you hear about the Dolphins, or did you know about the Dolphins already?
HILL: Oh, I knew about the Dolphins, yes.
CRAWFORD: Whereabouts in the bay are you likely to see the Dolphins? All over the place?
HILL: Yeah, well all over the place. Basically out front here, and round the front of the fossil forest [Curio Bay]. Not so much on the far side over there. There had been some in the mouth of the river, I’ve seen them twice that I’ve been there.
CRAWFORD: And every time you go out fishing, you’re in and out of the river. You move up the estuary, because that’s where you dock your boat. When you come out, do you ever fish Porpoise Bay itself?
HILL: No, we never fish out here. Now we do troll about 300 yards for the salmon on out there that’s breaking.
CRAWFORD: But most of the time, if you’re fishing, you’re out of the bay - you’ll go up the coast, or down the coast.
CRAWFORD: What other types of sea life would you have heard about, when you were getting your orientation?
HILL: Just about the places to go for Blue Cod, where’d to go and get Groper, where to fish for Moki.
CRAWFORD: When you told me the Seals vanished here in Porpoise Bay after the four shark attacks you saw, when was that, roughly?
HILL: Oh, five years ago. And then we had a bad run of Sea Lions around here.
CRAWFORD: When you say a 'bad run,' what do you mean?
HILL: We had a lot of Sea Lions out here.
CRAWFORD: Roughly, how many?
HILL: Well, could be up to about 12 or 14.
CRAWFORD: Really? Including beachmasters, the big males?
HILL: Yes, yes. There’s still a big male around here at the moment, around on the far side over here. They were coming up the walk way, they were coming into the park where people were tenting, they were squashing tents down, they were coming into the shop! It was on TV! [laughs]
CRAWFORD: These are very big animals!
HILL: These are Sea Lions we’re talking about now, not Seals.
CRAWFORD: I know! These are Hooker’s Sea Lions! They’re massive! And you’ve got to be careful with them at the best of times. Why were they coming up to the park?
HILL: DOC was looking at putting up a fence around the whole perimeter of the camping ground, for the Sea Lions coming into the park. They were coming in and lying on people’s tents!
HILL: I don’t know. This is what they don’t know!
CRAWFORD: Was it just that one year that it happened?
HILL: No, no. It was the next probably two and a half years after that. It was one of the big attractions down here, everybody heard about the Sea Lions.
CRAWFORD: More recently, in the past couple of years, have you had Sea Lions right on the beach here again?
HILL: No, no. The last two or three years, there’s been a huge decline, I’ve hardly seen any. Just gone - all of a sudden, they were there, and then they’re gone.
CRAWFORD: What kind of explanation could there be for that?
HILL: Well, like I was starting to say earlier on, you see a lot of things. The birds have changed out here over the last three or four years. For the last three years particularly, we used to get a lot of White Terns out here. We used to get the Gannets diving out here now and then, and the [Muttonbirds] used to come in here in big waves and that. And we used to get the Shags out here, and a lot more Seagulls. We hardly get them at all now. And they should be here.
CRAWFORD: Relative to the number of birds that you were getting before, what percentage are you getting now? Like 50%?
HILL: Oh, only about 10%,
CRAWFORD: Really? That much of a decline?
HILL: No, no. It's really gone down! I have a radio in the shop. I talk with the boats, they let me know what’s going on.
CRAWFORD: Boats? - recreational or commercial?
HILL: Both. In case something breaks down, I’m on call for them. I talk to the Pāua divers and people in general, basically from Slope Point on that way. I don’t know what’s going on, it seems really strange.
CRAWFORD: When you talk to the Pāua divers along this stretch from Waipapa Point up to Kaka Point, but especially this section of the Catlins, have any of the Pāua divers had any kind of interactions with White Pointers?
HILL: No, no. I haven’t heard any.
Copyright © 2017 Steve Hill and Steve Crawford