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
3. WHITE POINTER DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
CRAWFORD: What did the old-timers ever say about the White Pointers?
HARVEY: They never talked about the sharks much. I don’t think they saw them or caught them. But they would have done - especially with the line-fishing. But whether they sort of looked at them as White Pointers, or which fish they were ...
CRAWFORD: But the old-timers didn’t talk about places being sharky, or anything like that?
HARVEY: Not around here ...
CRAWFORD: Not along the south-eastern corner of the South Island?
HARVEY: No. See most of the old-timers would ... when we were kids, because transport was a lot harder those days, they never got together the same. Each fisherman sort of stayed in his own port. Unless he went up the coast, Craying and that, they never met the other fishermen.
CRAWFORD: You might know of them, you might have met them once or twice ...
HARVEY: Yeah. They knew the fishermen in Port Chalmers and that. But this area here, through the Nuggets and that, it was mostly all trawling ground, as far as our end of the country. But they were getting plenty of fish between here and Chaslands, so we didn't go much up that way. They did use to go to the Nuggets. But they were trawling, so you don’t see the sharks when you’re trawling.
CRAWFORD: No, you don’t - for a variety of reasons. Your Dad and his generation, were they old enough to know guys that were whalers.
HARVEY: They would have done, yeah. My old ancestor was a whaler, old Captain [Waibrow] [laughs]
CRAWFORD: This is what I want to get into, because there aren’t a lot of people left that track their history back directly to the whalers. I’m just wondering, in general, were there any stories from the whaling days? Did you hear any stories about the whalers and their interactions with the White Pointers?
HARVEY: Well, they’d see them because they’d eat the whales.
CRAWFORD: Yeah, I know. Do you remember hearing any stories about that?
HARVEY: Not really, no. The only one I’d seen was, I think it was out off in America there, they had it on tele.
CRAWFORD: A whale carcass?
HARVEY: Dead whale, and they went out and it was about an 18-footer. It was on that 'Shark Week' and they got her on TV. They thought it was a male, but they realized it was a big female.
CRAWFORD: Some of these White Pointers, they’ll converge on a whale carcass. But around here, it sounds like the White Pointers just weren’t talked about all that much.
HARVEY: No, they weren’t.
CRAWFORD: They were just sharks. You might see a shark, and you might not.
HARVEY: Well, the Bluff fisherman would see more than us. But most of those old fellows are passed away now, whether they told their sons and that, you know.
CRAWFORD: Why do you say the Bluffies would have seen more?
HARVEY: Well, a lot of them were handlining. Catching Blue Cod down the island [Stewart Island]. And the Islanders themselves, all them old blokes, well they were my father's age when I was a kid. They were all doing the same kind of fishing.
CRAWFORD: This tells me that even back in the day, even though people weren’t talking about sharks a whole lot, I mean, they just were there, right? And you might have an interaction, you might not. There’s no history of White Pointer attacks, down in Southland that I am aware of. Have you ever heard of anything?
HARVEY: Never heard of anybody being bitten, except for that one down at the Aucklands there.
CRAWFORD: Campbell Island.
HARVEY: That’s not a way back.
CRAWFORD: That attack surprised the hell out of everybody. That the White Pointers were actually down there!
HARVEY: Didn’t even know they were there.
CRAWFORD: No, it surprised everybody. When you make a comment like ‘the Bluff guys would have known, because they would have fished more around there’ - even back in the day, I've heard White Pointers were around Steward Island more than the rest of South Island.
HARVEY: Yeah, well we got down in Masons Bay there. I think there’s an island at the bottom end there, there’s one they call Shark Island. But we’ve never fished there.
CRAWFORD: Right. You only fished on the east side of the island.
HARVEY: Just the east side. And Pegasus out to the Traps. But, I’ve only been down there once.
HARVEY: Well, those are the blokes to talk to - in that area.
CRAWFORD: Anything that you ever saw or heard regarding White Pointers in Fiordland?
HARVEY: No, not really. You never thought of sharks when you’re up there. You know, we used to row ashore. My Brother ... see some of them photos there, we used to shoot deer at Wet Jacket Arm and that. We used to shoot a few off the boat, when we were out at sea. We had a wee 8-foot wooden dinghy, I used to row a way in it, and bring the deer back to the boat. But never thought of a shark. You knew they were there.
CRAWFORD: But they’re not doing swim-bys, they’re not poking their noses at you?
HARVEY: No, they weren’t. They weren’t stalking people, sort of thing. I think what brought it all out was that movie, 'Jaws.' That’s when people started thinking there were sharks around New Zealand, I reckon. Because there hadn’t been a lot of shark attacks in New Zealand.
CRAWFORD: You figure that movie ...
HARVEY: Well, that got people thinking White Pointers, because they never really had a name for the sharks before that. They knew the 'big fellas,' but you never heard them calling them 'White Pointers' and that. They were just big sharks, you know?
CRAWFORD: That doesn't surprise me, and you’re not the first person to point the movie out.
HARVEY: Well, I reckon that’s what made me know what a White Pointer was really. And then when you start seeing the different teeth in them and that. We got a Thresher one day come up, we had it hooked in the tail, pulled it up, and looked down, but the hook pulled out and slid away, it never even kicked. But they reckon some part of the year when they’re in pup that they’re very docile. That’s certainly what you hear, you know. But that one we caught never kicked much. And up come this, a wee white strip on him, you still see it, I was pulling up on it, and look down here’s a 10-12 foot shark. And then the hook pulled out, and he just disappeared again. And the Old Man said "That’s a Thresher, because of the tail on him." But we never hooked a White Pointer that we knew of. But as I say, I’ve seen Groper chopped clean as a whistle.
CRAWFORD: Where did you see that?
HARVEY: Just straight out of Waikawa here. The old boys had what we called Groper patches -they schooled every year, you know, in May and June. And they used to go to the patches and catch them. If they’re on a patch and they started getting Groper chopped off, they just leave the patch and go somewhere else, because it's just a waste of time. The shark will just ruin the catch. But they could have been Sevengillers or Makos.
CRAWFORD: Because you didn’t see them. But for that animal that you saw trapped, what time of year was that?
HARVEY: it’d be in April, I think it was. When the squid boats were here anyway. Cause the whole lot ... we used to say, that "Tokyo was lit up again." You see the lights of the squid boats for miles. So, it was when they were here, I think it was March/April.
CRAWFORD: In a bigger sense, were there any other places that you heard about that were hot spots for White Pointers at any point in time?
HARVEY: No, apart from Dunedin. It was those people ... I didn’t realize it was three taken there. I knew the one that was taken at St. Kilda, because the woman, she lived here at [Tapanui], it was her boyfriend.
CRAWFORD: The Surf Life Saver that was taken, nobody ever actually saw the shark and they never recovered his body.
HARVEY: So, they didn’t know if it was a shark or not.
CRAWFORD: I think it was pretty clear it was a shark. I mean, there was blood in the water, no remains, it was right there, so something big.
HARVEY: Well, we knew they were there. I was always told they followed the Barracouta.
CRAWFORD: Who told you that?
HARVEY: A joker, [Ewie Hislock]. He was a fisherman in Dunedin, actually died of a tumour. And he said, that a warm current comes in ...
CRAWFORD: Comes from the south? Up to Otago Peninsula?
HARVEY: Yeah. He reckoned that there’s a warm current comes in there, and the Barracouta - they used to catch tons of Barracouta in Port Chalmers - and he reckoned that those big fish followed the food.
CRAWFORD: That the White Pointers followed the Barracouta?
HARVEY: And he said that the surfers were there and it was the time of year I think when the 'Couta where there, you see?
CRAWFORD: What time of year? Do you remember him saying?
HARVEY: It’ll be around Christmas and that, because that’s when they come in here. I suppose be much the same time.
CRAWFORD: So December, maybe January?
HARVEY: Well, I can’t remember what time of year that bloke was taken now, it was a few years back. And then I’d seen those photos of them, and I was told they caught those two sharks hanging on the wall in the pub. They said they were both caught in the [Otago] Harbour there. And the ‘Couta come up in the harbour there in Port Chalmers. That's just what we know, we could be totally wrong, it's just what we’d been told, and that was a theory that was sort of put together.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Anything in terms of patterns that these animals might have? Even back in the day, did anyone notice those patterns where the animals would move around during the year?
HARVEY: Not that I know of. But you wouldn’t know, because nobody studied it. Sharks weren’t ... they weren’t a menace or anything. Until they sort of put it on TV, nobody ever worried about them, really.
CRAWFORD: Well, that’s an interesting way to put it, Stu. That they weren’t really a menace.
HARVEY: No. There's fishermen at Stewart Island, lived there all their life and never seen them. And then that fella, I don’t know if you’ve met him, young Squizzy Squire, young Richard.
CRAWFORD: I’m going to interview him next week.
HARVEY: [laughs] He’s got the wee boat there, and he takes out the tourists and that. He reckoned that since they tagged [the White Pointers] and they brought the cages in, the sharks are chopping the lines off when he’s out. But there’s our Richard. He’s against the cages and things.
CRAWFORD: Everybody has their own opinion. My job is to record it. I try to make sure that the opinion shows up as "What do you think, and why do you think it?’ Otherwise, anybody could think of anything.
CRAWFORD: You said before, you’ve heard some things about the [Department of Conservation and NIWA] tagging projects on the White Pointers?
HARVEY: Well, they did have it on tele. They had that Joe Cave’s wee boat, the Desta. They were tagging them, and that’s the first time I seen it there. Then they realized there was more sharks here than they thought. It was all documented.
CRAWFORD: Whether through tv or whatever else, you've heard some of the more recent information about these tagging programs and the White Pointers. If you had to put your finger on the most important information that they got from those tagging programs, what was the thing that maybe surprised you most? Anything more than just the number of animals?
HARVEY: Just the distance they travelled.
CRAWFORD: What do you remember from the program about that?
HARVEY: Oh, well. I reckon they went to Fiji, and they were even wandering ... whether that big one they found in South Africa come across here. Colossal they called it. Yeah, the distance they travelled was very interesting.
CRAWFORD: I'd like to get back to the White Pointer attack that took place here a little while ago.
HARVEY: The one in Curio Bay was a surprise to all of us, because never in our lifetime had we heard of anybody taken there.
CRAWFORD: That gets back to this idea about a migration along this coast. That was never anything that the old-timers talked about?
HARVEY: No, nobody knew anything about it at all. It was just one come up, you seen it, that was it.
CRAWFORD: As opposed to the whales, because you see them more regularly, right?
HARVEY: And they knew from records ... you knew with the whalers and that, that they migrated. But until I started looking at things, they called them the Right Whale, which we didn’t know when we were younger. They used to show up here every year at certain times. They’d go fast, and there’d be the odd one seen in the bay here with a calf, and things like that.
CRAWFORD: But fundamentally different, because those animals are blowing at the surface, right?
HARVEY: Yeah, they gotta come up.
CRAWFORD: Whereas the sharks, if they don’t want to be at the surface, they don’t have to be.
HARVEY: Yeah. As I say, you bring the Groper up, chopped off behind the thing. That there’s the only time you knew he was there.
CRAWFORD: Were those Groper getting chopped like that, was that back in the day too - with your Dad?
HARVEY: Yeah, that was back when they were handlining for Groper on the patches. That would be back in the '50s
CRAWFORD: At least? Even further beyond that?
HARVEY: Yeah, it would be. Because that is what they done for a living back then. But never had the technology the same.
CRAWFORD: But you still didn’t know if it was a Mako, or a White Pointer, or a Sevengiller ...
HARVEY: Sharks usually never come up. Just the fish come up. Well, what was left of it, and that was it.
CRAWFORD: I've heard a couple of instances where the shark actually does come up, but they’re very rare. Just because you pull up a head that has a nice clean cut on it, it doesn’t mean that it was a White Pointer, it could have been something else.
HARVEY: All we knew was it was a shark.
HARVEY: And you didn’t muck around on that patch, because he’d chop a few more off on you, and that’s your money for the day. So, you go to another patch.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Porpoise Bay, the estuary. Most people realize that estuaries are productive, because you’ve got nutrients coming in. But when you have one adjacent to a bay like Porpoise Bay, that’s some protected water as well. It’s a very special place. Do you remember anybody ever saying that they had seen sharks of any kind in Porpoise Bay or around the estuary itself?
HARVEY: Yeah, there’s a bloke who used to come down every year, [Joker Hoffman]. And he used to put a monofilament setnet out behind the South Heads here. And they used to catch Kahawai there. That’ll be 25 years ago. And he was telling me that they used to go out, he had a kayak, launch her off the beach there, and pick the net up. And he went out one day and there was a big shark, he came up alongside the kayak, it was about the length of his kayak. And he got the net out, and he said he never went back. He had the wind up. He just seen the big shadow of it, it never actually broke the water. But he was telling me that.
CRAWFORD: There are couple of different kinds of sharks that get up to the size of a kayak. It's not to say that it was one or another. Did he have any distinguishing features that he remembers?
HARVEY: No, he just said that he knew it was a big shark. But he never actually got a decent look at it, and they got their way out of there though, got the wind up.
CRAWFORD: The animal never gave him a hard time? Wasn’t following, wasn’t threatening, wasn’t circling, or anything like that?
HARVEY: No. Just seen that it was down a bit, but he said he’s seen it and it was a big one. But Steve [Hill] told me there were three seals taken.
CRAWFORD: I interviewed Steve, and I didn’t know that was coming.
HARVEY: He reckoned he told me and I said "I can’t remember you telling me." He said DOC buried them in the beach there. Pity they didn’t measure the bites and that. Yeah, they were coming right up to the shop there.
CRAWFORD: He talked about when he saw the first Seal attack, I think it was a month later the second attack, and it was the next year for #3, #4. In October, November. That’s why timing is so important ...
HARVEY: Well that one we’d seen on tele, come back to America, one of the beaches there, every two years, and it got a surfer each time. That was on Shark Week. They reckon it was about an 18-footer, and they never actually seen the shark, but there were two blokes killed. I think they might have got a surf board with the teeth marks in it. They showed about an 18-footer as part of the program, but it had a Blue Cod and a Trumpeter swimming with it. [laughs] And I said "Well, they don't have them in American waters." But they sort of put it in as an example, because they never had footage of the other one.
CRAWFORD: Maybe that footage came from Stewart Island?
HARVEY: Yeah. Cause I’ve seen what they’ve done. I said, "That’s not over in America, there’s a Blue Cod there." But it was a documentary and they were showing it. Just because they had done it, it was still factual.
CRAWFORD: What do you know about the attack on the person that took place here in Curio Bay?
HARVEY: Oh, just what was in the paper, and what Steve sort of told me.
CRAWFORD: Ok. What do you know about it, just in general?
HARVEY: They just said it was a White Pointer, but I don’t know whether they measured the board up. And the bloke, I think there was a doctor on the beach at the time. I don’t even know how badly bitten he was. I never heard about it till it was put in the paper.
CRAWFORD: Did you hear anything about the size of the animal?
HARVEY: No, we just heard it was ... surfies reckoned it was a White Pointer. That was all we knew.
CRAWFORD: Based on what I’ve heard, it was a smaller animal.
HARVEY: That’s what I thought. I thought it might have been a Sevengiller actually, because we've got them in the harbour, here and there. There’s nothing to stop it being around Porpoise Bay. They’re not known for biting.
CRAWFORD: They’re known for bumping.
HARVEY: Yeah. Allan said, they tried take his dog out of his boat. Had him at the wharf. And it was exactly as you said. We filleted all the Cod on the moorings here, at the wharf,
CRAWFORD: You figure the Sevengillers were feeding on your frames?
HARVEY: We’d never seen them as kids, you see. It was probably 15 years ago, and it was the first photo I showed you - that was the first Sevengiller I knew was in the harbour. We used to swim in there and catch fish.
CRAWFORD: How many years ago?
HARVEY: It would be 15 years ago. The boys had their wee recreational boat here, and they were cleaning over the stern, and the shark was eating the frames. So, they put a hook on a line, and they tied it to the moorings, and the next morning they went down, and he was hooked, and he was going round and round. They come and got me, because they only had an 8-foot dinghy, and they weren’t going to out. [laughs] I only had a 10-foot one, but we took the .22 rifle down, and pulled him up and shot him in the head.
CRAWFORD: A Sevengiller?
HARVEY: Yeah. And I brought him in, and that’s the photo that I showed you there today.
CRAWFORD: Ok. Sevengillers, relatively recent, and seems maybe they've picked up in numbers. I mean, not necessarily common, but it was unusual to see a Sevengiller before?
HARVEY: They’re a lot dociler than the other fellas, but we've see them.
CRAWFORD: More docile than which other fellas?
HARVEY: Than the likes of a Mako or a White Pointer. They seem to be more docile when they swim around.
CRAWFORD: Although if you’re talking to a free diver, or a scuba diver, these Sevengillers, they can be pretty pugnacious, they can be pretty rough. Sometimes they’ll gang up on you. You’ll have one in front of you, and you’ll have one come up behind you.
HARVEY: They showed that on tele, did you see it?
HARVEY: They were in Breaksea Sound there, they dived, and it got the woman on the head, and they had to get her way out of it. And then they just kept showing up. They were studying them. They were the same fellas that were doing the White Pointers. That done that documentary, I think.
CRAWFORD: Then you’ve got this natural comparison again with Paterson Inlet, because people have known about Sevengillers there for a long time.
HARVEY: It was a Sevengiller at Port Adventure, the one we seen that Ivan's actually got footage of, and it was a good size. We got one half-way between the Traps and Pegasus, and he’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen. He’d be close on 10 foot. And he was a Sevengiller. Three of us couldn’t get him on the boat, he was too heavy. I just caught him on the Cod line, and I thought I’d caught an old Crayfish pot. It was just dead weight. I pulled him up, and he’s a big Sevengiller.
CRAWFORD: Just hanging there?
HARVEY: He never even kicked.
CRAWFORD: Not thrashing or anything?
HARVEY: Nope, he just come up. My Old Man give him a smack on the head with a Groper [waddy] and that sort of made him kick a bit. We didn't want him, so we just cut the hook out of him and let him go.
CRAWFORD: Getting back to Porpoise Bay, and like I said, evidence seems to indicate pretty strongly that it was a small White Pointer that clamped down. Different from what you hear about other accounts where White Pointers are taking Seals or anything, where it's from the bottom up, at speed, and it’s an ambush. And the impact itself, plus the bite. And then sometimes, the White Pointers are known to kind of just circle around while the animal bleeds out or whatever.
HARVEY: Yeah. They won’t let themselves get hurt.
CRAWFORD: That’s the point, they’re pretty vulnerable.
HARVEY: They’re not silly. [laughs]
CRAWFORD: But, why do you think a little White Pointer would be in Porpoise Bay?
HARVEY: Well, nobody had ever heard of them there before. I never heard of anyone, apart from [Joker Hoffman], and he didn't see the fish, but he said it was a good size one. But if it was that size, and it took a bite, I think it would have chopped his board in half or something. Being a decent-sized fish, if he’d been a White Pointer. It wouldn't have been a wee fish. But yeah, they never sort of elaborated on the marks and that - in the paper or DOC or that, never. They just said the bloke was bitten, and that was it. There was nothing to say whether they tested ... I don’t know whether it bit his board or not, or if it was just him.
CRAWFORD: They had a good look at him. Nick did too as well.
HARVEY: And they reckon it was a White Pointer?
CRAWFORD: Yeah. I mean it’s a big ocean. When you consider the number of New Zealanders and foreigners who are in the water throughout the year, and you add up all of the person-hours in the water, and you do the math, you realize ...
HARVEY: Not many people getting bit.
CRAWFORD: I guess that makes me wonder, how come we’ve never had a White Pointer attack down at Stewart Island [knock on wood]?
HARVEY: Because the sharks come right in Halfmoon Bay and Paterson's Inlet. People swim there.
CRAWFORD: And the DOC and NIWA guys that were doing the tagging, they also had some hydroacoustic tags on some of the White Pointers.
HARVEY: That you can hear under the water.
CRAWFORD: And then they put these buoys out - listening devices that can hear the tags pinging.
HARVEY: That’s what Ivan MacIntosh told me, they put them in.
CRAWFORD: And there were a lot of pings in places where people hadn't realized they were there. It leads people to think, these fish are there obviously, the fish are not being seen, and it is quite possible that the fish are not being seen because the fish do not want to be seen.
HARVEY: They are getting enough food, and not worried about humans.
CRAWFORD: If White Pointers wanted humans, there’d be a hell of a lot more casualties. We’re just so vulnerable when we're in the water.
HARVEY: You’re getting a few more attacks in Aussie, but they don’t know if they're White Pointers either, you see because they've got the Tiger Sharks, and they've got the Bull Sharks, and all the different sharks. But there seems to be more on TV now. Then again, they cover it more than they used to.
CRAWFORD: Getting back to Porpoise Bay just for a second. There’s this idea that there is a natural antagonism between sharks and Dolphins/Porpoises.
HARVEY: Yeah, we’ve been told that for years.
CRAWFORD: And that doesn’t make it true or not true. Did the old-timers think that way, or is this a relatively new thing?
HARVEY: No, I think they thought that as well. If there was a Dolphins in the water, there’d be no sharks about. But when you see the coverage on them, they’d show the sharks and the Dolphins are all feeding together. No - we’ve been told that all our lives, but I wouldn’t believe it.
CRAWFORD: You haven’t seen anything in your experience, or heard anything from the old-timers or your mates ... nobody you know has actually seen any situation where Dolphins were attacking sharks?
HARVEY: Just hearsay. Everybody else has been told that.
CRAWFORD: Porpoise Bay is unique for a bunch of different reasons. One reason is that you've got Dolphins. They were just down the beach Steve said, when the White Pointer attack happened. So this perception, that if you are around Dolphins, that they will attack a shark if it is around - that perception may not be true at all?
HARVEY: No. I would sort of have to see it to believe it. We’ve been told that. There’s been stories coming out over the years that a bloke was saved by the Dolphins and that. But that’s all I know about it. But when I seen that on TV, the Dolphins were working in among the sharks, and they were getting the Sardines all piled up, and they were plowing through them. They weren’t attacking the sharks, they were getting into the Sardines.
Copyright © 2017 Stewart Harvey and Steve Crawford