Gathering fishers' stories

Gathering fishers' stories

A crayfish catch outside a fish shop in Manaia, early 20thcentury. (Ref: F58501-1/2, J C Hosie Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand)

The experiences of recreational and customary fishers are being captured by researchers keen to gather evidence of changes in shellfish and fish catches since the early 20th century.

“There is a big gap in our knowledge in terms of the impact humans, especially recreational and customary fishers, have had on shellfish and fish stocks, particularly between the 1900s and the 1960s,” says NIWA’s Kimberley Maxwell.

Fishers from young to old are being asked about the size and numbers caught in average catches over time, and also any particularly memorable catches. Study regions are the greater Hauraki Gulf and the Otago Catlins coast. ‘Props’ for the interviews include maps and species charts, which help provide comparable data. Photos and artefacts kept by the fishers are also being noted, all combining to provide what will become a rich qualitative and quantitative record.

Kimberley has also been listening to interviews (1991-96) from the Great Barrier Island Oral History Project by Helen Jordan held in the Alexander Turnbull Library. “Many of the interviewees have noticed declines in seabird numbers and fish shoal sizes in their lifetimes,” says Kimberley.

The research is a component of a larger Ministry of Fisheries funded project identifying the long term impacts of climate and humans on the continental shelf fisheries of New Zealand.