Experience: Commercial Fisherman
Regions: Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Fiordland, Stewart Island
Interview Location: Waikawa, NZ
Interview Date: 11 January 2016
Post Date: 11 November 2017; Copyright © 2017 Stewart Harvey and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Stuart, I think you told me you were born here in Waikawa? What year was that?
CRAWFORD: What was your first memory of spending significant amount of time around the water?
HARVEY: Oh, when we were kids. We were always down the wharf bringing the dinghies around. It was a fishing port.
CRAWFORD: Roughly how many boats?
HARVEY: There was 14 here when I was going to primary school.
CRAWFORD: And your Dad was one of them?
CRAWFORD: What size of boat did he sail?
HARVEY: It was about 42-foot.
CRAWFORD: And what was it made for?
HARVEY: They were trawling and catching Cod and Groper at the time. She was called the [Tangaroa]
CRAWFORD: The Cod and Groper was ...
HARVEY: No, no, the Cod and Groper were caught on danlines.
CRAWFORD: These lines were pulled on a motor?
HARVEY: No. Originally, they just pulled them up by hand.
CRAWFORD: Right. The boat was called the [Tangaroa]
HARVEY: Yeah. 42-foot. He fished it with his brother-in-law, Jimmy [Stronach].
CRAWFORD: When you were growing up as a kid, you spent time on and around the water, I'm guessing mostly in the estuary. But you were swimming, playing with the dinghy, doing some fishing on your own?
HARVEY: Yeah, we fished off the wharf all the time.
CRAWFORD: Do you remember at what age you started going out fishing, either with your Dad or the others?
HARVEY: Oh, I'd probably be eight years old.
CRAWFORD: You would have been out on the boat for day trips?
HARVEY: Yeah. Used to get sea-sick all the time. [laughs]
CRAWFORD: If you started at the age of eight, you might go out on weekends and on holidays?
HARVEY: Yeah. On weekends, when we were in school. If the weather permitted.
CRAWFORD: But this was your Dad, and it was work, and it was just what you did. That’s the age of eight. At what point did you start having access to a boat of your own, where you could go off and explore?
HARVEY: Oh well, actually went fishing?
CRAWFORD: Not necessarily fishing. Because you may have had access to a boat where, maybe you were just out in the bay, cruising around, or having fun, or doing whatever. If you were out on a boat, you were typically fishing - was that the case?
HARVEY: Yeah, we either went out with Dad, or we’d just ride the dinghies round the [Waikawa] harbour. But when we went to sea, it was always with an adult. Then I took up commercial fishing when I was 16.
CRAWFORD: That’s the next break point, when you’re out pretty much every day - weather permitting.
HARVEY: We used to go from here up to the Sounds, Crayfishing.
CRAWFORD: When you said 'the Sounds,' did you spend a significant amount of time over in Fiordland?
HARVEY: Yeah, it would probably eight years up in the Sounds Crayfishing.
CRAWFORD: When you were fishing with your Dad on day-trips, what was your range? How far up and down the coast would you go?
CRAWFORD: And that was all day-fishing?
HARVEY: Yeah, just day-fishing.
CRAWFORD: How old were you when you were out full-time?
HARVEY: We did trawling when I was 16. I went fishing on a boat for the National Mortgage - they used to own the boats here, and one of the wharfs. We went trawling Waikawa to the Chaslands. When we went Crayfishing, we left here and we went right round the Chalky Sound, and spent a lot of time in Dagg Sound and Breaksea Sound.
CRAWFORD: Was that during the off-season, during the winter?
HARVEY: Yeah, it was the winter we went up the Sounds. In the summer, we were trawling out of Waikawa. But we did do the odd trip to Chalky Sound, just after Christmas, we used to do that. That was on the boat The Plucky. There was an old Scotsman here, I got a job with him.
CRAWFORD: How old were you at this stage?
HARVEY: I’d done two years on her, and I was probably 16 1/2 when I went on her.
CRAWFORD: So, 18, 19?
HARVEY: Yeah. Then my brother and I bought a boat between us. I think it was five years we had it.
CRAWFORD: How big a vessel was that?
HARVEY: That was 36-foot. And then I came home and I fished out of Waikawa here with me Dad. And then I took over the boat when he retired.
CRAWFORD: When you fished that boat, were you a day-fisherman as well?
HARVEY: Yeah, we just fished out of Waikawa.
CRAWFORD: So, basically the same routine, same vessel?
HARVEY: No, it was a different vessel. But it was a 42-footer, came from Wellington.
CRAWFORD: Right - it was your Dad’s boat that you took over?
CRAWFORD: What took you down to the Traps? Why the extra distance?
HARVEY: Oh, I’d fished down there earlier on other boats, my father and that. And there’s lots of good Cod grounds there. So, just like everybody done, you could catch more fish down there. And if you get better weather sometimes you can fish out there, when you couldn’t here. Might be a big roll on the bar or something. No roll to stop you down there.
CRAWFORD: In terms of the distance, you had freezer facilities on board?
HARVEY: No, we used to freeze them on my brother’s boat. He had freezers.
CRAWFORD: In terms of gear on that boat you were running, was it the same type of thing?
HARVEY: We started with mechanical haulers and lines, and then we went on to Codpots.
CRAWFORD: When did you make the shift to pots?
HARVEY: Oh, probably it was in the 70s, but I wouldn’t be just sure now.
CRAWFORD: And then you had a Codpotting season and a Crayfishing season, back and forth?
HARVEY: Yeah. We’d come back to Waikawa here, and then Crayfish out of Waikawa. If the Crayfish wasn’t too good, you just go Codding with the Codpots.
CRAWFORD: At that point, were you still going over to Fiordland in the winter?
HARVEY: No, no. When I went with my Dad, we never went any further than the bottom of the island. And mostly Waikawa here.
CRAWFORD: Getting back to when you fished Stewart Island, did you fish all the way around?
HARVEY: No, we didn’t go to the west side. We were just Port Adventure and Pegasus. And Lords River - well, it's on the way. We used to fish out of there, but we didn’t do many trips down there. Probably only about four trips.
HARVEY: No. The furthest away, we were eight miles off Ruapuke on the east side. That was far down, getting a far way from home. But we were getting plenty of Cod in that area. And you had to be careful in the Straits with the weather, all the time. It wasn’t like some of the bigger boats, the steel boats - they fished a lot heavier weather.
CRAWFORD; Ok. If I was doing the math right, you were around 25 or so?
HARVEY: Yeah, be getting around there.
CRAWFORD: Did you fish that kind of pattern for the rest of your career?
CRAWFORD: Any other big changes?
HARVEY: Well, I sold the boat and then I got another, when they brought that quota system in.
CRAWFORD: That was in the mid-80s?
HARVEY: Yeah. They calculated it over three years, and then they went through the middle of her, and if you had a bad year in one of those years, you didn’t get the quota you should have. We had a motor broke down in the middle of the Cray season, but if you didn’t get your fish, they didn’t consider that. They said "Oh, nobody will be disadvantaged, we'll all get a good quota to survive on." And then they just put us through the middle of so many years, and that was it.
CRAWFORD: You get a bad average, and it’s tough luck?
HARVEY: Yeah. The year before they brought the system in, we had about 2 1/2 ton of Crayfish for the year. We were tailing them in those days. But we weren’t allowed that year. Of course, the next year wasn’t as good, so we ended up with a very poor quota, you know? Then the government cut her, and we ended up selling the quota, because we had homes to pay off and boats and things, and we weren’t getting enough out of the industry. When they cut the quota, we were only making a living anyways. And they said "Just go buy some more quota. There’s some coming on the market." But we didn’t have the money to buy it so, we ended up ... we sold the quota we had. More to survive, than anything.
CRAWFORD: That was late 80’s?
HARVEY: Yeah, it would be.
CRAWFORD: Did you fish leased quota after that?
HARVEY: Yeah. We just fished for firms and that. But we gave up the Crayfishing, we stopped Craying, and we just went trawling and Codding and did a wee bit of Groper.
CRAWFORD: When did you change vessels? Roughly?
HARVEY: I can’t remember the dates. We got a 38-footer from Perth. A high speed one, and I just can’t remember the dates. It’d be 20 years ago.
CRAWFORD: And in terms of where you fished, was it the same area, same gear?
HARVEY: Identical, yeah. But we gave the Crayfishing up, and we gave the trawling up. Sold it. We had the Santa Maria, and we just Codded and got a few Groper.
CRAWFORD: You did that until you retired, or were there any other changes?
HARVEY: No. I bought another boat - I've still got it here. We use it for recreational now.
CRAWFORD: You were running two boats for a while?
HARVEY: Yeah. My brother, he skippered the other one I bought. Then the one I brought from Aussie, I fished it on loan for a while. And then I sold the boat, and I went ashore for a couple of years, and then I got sick of that so I went and got another boat. I was done, I think it was four years ago now.
CRAWFORD: I think that just about summarizes the different times, the different gears, the different fisheries.
Copyright © 2017 Stewart Harvey and Steve Crawford