Coming & Going
July, and it must be winter. But we have read and heard of plenty of divers groveling in cold, murky waters and others heading off for a spell in tropical waters where they won’t have to wear a 7mm wetsuit with all the extra lead weight that entails. However, deep diving exponent Dave Mullin’s account of his escapades in a 7mm wetsuit at around 40 metres in the cold waters of Cook Strait shows just what one spearfisher is able to in the circumstances. You can read it on the Sea Matters page of our website www.spearfishingnz.co.nz
That article mentions diving on a reef where some other line fishers often anchor and reminds us that we are presently in discussion with Water Safety NZ about further promotion of diving safety where boats are moving in the area. More will be said about that in subsequent Newsletters.
Our last Newsletter’s review of learned behaviour in bronze whalers gave us some interesting responses and observations by other divers. Various spearfishers amongst you reported shark’s relatively benign behaviour when no food was on offer while others wrote of unwelcome encounters with these sharks, more particularly when fish had been speared. Comments from Sam Barnes encapsulate both the ‘good and the bad.’
“Diving at Gannett Island off Raglan recently I counted seven bronzies at one time swimming around me in not brilliant visibility of about 15 metres and both Warren and Rochelle counted 11 to 12 all visible at the same time. They weren’t being at all aggressive with the exception of one that required pokes from Warren’s empty speargun before the shark realized that Warren wanted the kingie he had just speared more than him.”
Commercial paua divers picked up the review in that Newsletter, contacted us, and related the learning evident in bronze whalers to the practice of feeding white pointers as a means of attracting them to cages from which divers can view the sharks. Since bronze whalers demonstrate they can learn to associate divers with food there seems no reason why white pointers should not do the same. Paua divers working in the vicinity of a ‘white-pointer-cagediving- experience’ may have reason to be cautious about their own safety. Some readers will have seen the recent TV review of the NIWA white pointer acoustic tagging programme around Stewart Island which showed a concentration of those fish in its waters. It is the same waters where berley is used to attract white pointers to a cage diving experience and where commercial paua divers go up and down like seals and are intent on what is attached to rocks beneath them rather than what is swimming behind them. It was suggested to us by one with whom we discussed their dilemma that paua divers may want to be sure their insurance is up to date!
NZ National Freediving Champs held in the Porirua Pool one weekend in June
Competitors turned up from various places around NZ and tested themselves against the best. Spearfishing NZ went along to watch and we were intrigued by how many we knew in a different context.
What else is it that these freediving competitors have in common? They all spear fish and attest to an improved ability as a result of freediver training! Think about joining one of the training sessions offered.
The Minister of Fisheries and Commercial Exploitation of the Marine Resource
Recreational fishing interests throughout NZ have in recent weeks made it clear that they are hostile to the Minister’s performance in the area of recreational fishing. The extent of the dissatisfaction is evident in the comments of the various recreational fishing organisations and individual recreational fishing interests such as fishing and dive shops. We include here two examples of feedback on what is happening, or not happening for recreational interests.
First, is a comment in the current NZ Angling and Casting Assn’s newsletter after their members attended the recent AGM of the Recreational Fishing Council. It gives you an indication of how such organisations see Mr Heatley in his role as Minister.
“…politicians from all the major parties were present and it is very evident that recreational fishing has not been well served by our present Minister, some calling him the “Minister of Commercial Fishing.” With an election coming up you are urged to find the opinions of your local candidates and the Party they belong to.”
Secondly, we include this review by Mark Roden of the Nelson Underwater Club and RFC member. Mark spears a few fish in the Marlborough Sounds, D’Urville Island areas.
Recreational Fishing Council AGM & Conference New Plymouth 2011
Here is a quick summary of the Conference held over the weekend 1-3 July. The main ‘event’ at the conference was the universal acknowledgement that recreational fishers really need to get their collective acts together because the rug is getting pulled further and further out from under the amateur fisherman’s feet. The combination of moving Mfish into the ‘superministry’ and the ever growing influence of commercial fishers will reduce the voice of rec fishers to a ‘pip squeak in the corner’ unless something is done – NOW!
You only have to read the paua story in this newsletter and most of you will know the government’s policy on aquaculture: – marine farm applications are being approved almost as a formality - it’s time for some action.
Just one example of how the pecking order works: the Minister of Fisheries response to pressure to deliver on the National Party promise of recreational only fishing areas was to announce that – “I’ve asked the commercial fishing industry and they don’t want any recreational only fishing areas.” Hellooo! The Minister basically told the assembly of rec fishing representatives that they will get what the commercial fishing industry allows them to get – and “I’ve got a plane to catch, see ya”
OK – in a nutshell - for the past 12 months the Recreational Fishing Council of NZ has been working closely on the viability of setting up a statutory body to represent rec fishers. This would use the existing ‘Fish & Game’ model that has been so successful with a history traceable back 150 years. The statutory body would (just like Fish & Game) be totally independent of the government and have the clout to foot it with the multi billion dollar commercials when it comes to all the issues that we face. This will place us in the driver’s seat instead of the current system of throwing the recreationalists the odd crumb to shut them up.
Will keep you posted through this Newsletter and will be looking for ‘buy in’ and support from the spearfishing community – and before you ask: “Yes” it’s likely that at some stage you will have to accept that if you want access to a healthy thriving marine environment you’re going to have to cough up a few bucks every year for a permit or license – or - if you want to swim miles of stripped out fishless deserts then you can do that for free.
Reference in the above review to the Minister’s intent for inshore fisheries comes as a result of his comments to a recent meeting the Seafood Industry Council. While few recreational fishers appear to believe he has delivered on his promises, more disconcerting is the belief that matters will not improve under his watch. He pointed out when talking to the Seafood Industry Council that he would like next year to put more emphasis on in-shore fisheries rather than deep water fisheries.
Without being specific, that could include more aquaculture, return of gill nets, increases in commercial quotas at the expense of the recreational fishing experience. Divers in Northland, Hauraki Gulf, Bay of Plenty areas are not immune from this because while they are relishing the improving stock of snapper both in numbers and in size, they look likely to have them thinned out by promised significant increases to commercial.
Many of our readers were not even a smile on the faces of their parents when the waters of Kapiti Island to Wellington were almost as prolific in snapper numbers as they presently are in the Far North. It was possible in those days to virtually guarantee the spearing one or two snapper of 5kg + in selected bays and reefs in a dive after work. Pair trawling was introduced and within two years few, if any snapper, were able to be speared let alone seen. It has remained pretty much that way, with the occasional exception, to the present day.
The Minister at the same meeting indicated he was considering opening the Wellington and Taranaki coasts to commercial paua gathering. Recreational and dive industry interests have other ideas on that! If you did not know it, the Taranaki coast for some reason seldom grows paua to 125mm. After years of work by recreational fishing groups the Ministry of Fisheries granted a smaller legal size so a recreational catch is now possible. Riding on the back of that work and availability of paua for recreational take, the Minister sees it as now viable for commercial take
Profile of a ‘Good Sort’ for Spearfishing Interests From time to time we will profile various people who contribute in a variety of ways, to your diving experience. Some of you will know their names, some will be known personally, but for most readers not at all. What they do is not for money or self promotion. Indeed, there are times when they are ‘out-of-pocket,’ out of time, and wearing criticism that sometimes comes their way.
- Pat Swanson - Keeper of NZ Spearfishing Records - Lives in New Plymouth - Occupation: Primary School Teacher
SNZ: How and when did you get into spearfishing? In the late 1960’s I remember being amazed by the Cousteau films. I couldn’t wait to explore the world beneath the sea, and at the age of 7 I told my Aunt I was going to be a marine biologist. A year or so later I snorkeled in the school swimming pool, but it wasn’t until I was 12 that I saved my lawn mowing money for a full set of gear – a wetsuit, weight belt, mask, snorkel and fins, and of course my first speargun – a “Gregarth Junior”. My first diving was around the port in New Plymouth – no spotty, wrasse, marblefish or red moki was safe from me! I mucked around with diving over the next 15 years, and took up SCUBA diving as part of my job working for the Fisheries Research Division, part of MAF. In 1987 I started to get serious about spearfishing, and bought a Sea Hornet gun, and started bringing home regular feeds of fish from around the Wellington coast. One of my favourite spots was Moa Point – you could only dive there in a strong nor-west, when the wind blew the sewage out to sea! It was a great place diving 20m in a 7mm suit and underwater hockey fins to spear Tarakihi was great training. In 1989 I entered my first ever competition, the Nationals in Wellington, taking out the B Grade, and finishing 20th out of 70 odd divers. I won a depth sounder even! I was hooked!
SNZ: Where have you done a lot of your diving? Most of my diving has been around New Zealand, and because I worked as a commercial paua and kina diver for 10 years, I have had the opportunity to dive and spearfish from the Three Kings to the bottom of Stewart Island. I love diving new places, and I have a particular love for shore diving, and the satisfaction of landing good fish from the shore. Whitianga is still hard to beat as a spearfishing destination – great variety, lots of islands, great shore diving. I love Cuvier, Mayor and White Islands. Fiordland is amazing, as is Stewart Island. I have done a bit of diving overseas, but not enough! Western Australia, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Chile have been places I have been to comps at, and I have loved every place for its differences. Diving in New Caledonia is great – especially the bommies in the interior of the reefs – really challenging.
SNZ: What would you say about comments that you can be very competitive in what you do? It is certainly one of my personality traits that I try to turn everything into a competition! I have people I enjoy having both fun and serious rivalries with, but my greatest competitor is myself. I like the process of continual learning and self improvement. As I have got older, and my physical skills have waned, I have had to sharpen up my other skills! As a competitive spearo, there is a major psychological element to being a strong competitor. Many very good spearos wilt under the pressure of competition.
SNZ: Highlights so far in your diving? So many! Making the NZ team for the first time, spearing a mainland hapuku, regaining my snapper record, my daughter winning the junior women’s nationals are all ‘up there’. Mainly though, it has been about diving with my mates, and seeing some really good young divers come through, hopefully with a bit of help from me – Scott Mackereth, Dwane Herbert in particular. The spearfishing community is a great group of people. The best thing is, I still love spearfishing, and being out in the ocean with clear water and fish all around me is still a buzz for me.
SNZ: Any particular spearfishing goals on your "to do list?" In New Zealand there are lots of places I would love to go – Chathams, sub-Antarctic Islands, Kermadecs. The Far North holds a fascination for me. I want to break 40kg for a PB kingfish – probably will be up north! I also want to do a LOT more diving overseas, anywhere where there is water. I love tropical diving for the variety, the comfort, and the technical challenges. The main fish on my wishlist are yellowfin tuna, wahoo and mahimahi. A bigger snapper would be nice!
SNZ: You have a good knowledge of fish species. How did you develop that? I have always had a strong interest in fish species, and their diversity. I studied fish books as a youngster, and then working for Fisheries Research I built up some better taxonomic knowledge. Working as a commercial diver built up your powers of observation too, spotting the odd one out in a school of fish etc.
SNZ: What attracted you to the job of 'Keeper of the Records'? I was aware that NZ Underwater were struggling with the role after spearing my first record snapper. I was also aware that the records list was a mess, with some species unidentifiable, some species that I believe should never have been on it, and some species recorded under more than one name. There were also no real guidelines for weighing the catch. Some of the earlier records were weighed with rusty spring scales from the deck of a moving boat! I heard of a snapper record that was claimed only after they had weighed it on more generous scales, after weighing it on digital scales! While digital scales are not perfect, they are considerably better!
It is also fascinating to see the range and size of fish being speared around the country, while in catering to the diversity of those diving it was appropriate to established women’s and junior record categories.
SNZ: What have been some of the difficulties with the role? The greatest difficulty really is fitting the job into a fairly busy life with my job and family. I am also a fairly disorganized person, so keeping track of emails, letters and certificates is a mission for me. Fish ID issues are generally taken care of by having clear pictures, or the actual specimen so that I can do the ID, or I can (and usually do) forward them on to the boffins at Te Papa. An ongoing challenge is deciding what fish to keep records for – there is a school of thought that suggests we should only keep records for common fish over a kilo. Others think it should be a completely open list.