Graeme Bennet

Position: Able-bodied seaman (AB)

The memories I have of fishing are special. We went to Tahiti on the Kaharoa to drop some ARGO floats in the middle of New Zealand’s winter. Considering it was frosts and rain and rubbish back home it was fantastic. IN 2017 I was on the Ikatere doing multibeam sonar in the Queen Charlotte Sounds. We saw the Russian cruise liner that sunk in Port Moore and the resolution was great – you could see it in great detail. We set a glider in Cook Strait once. That thing by itself went right up the East Coast of the South Island to collect data for earthquake movements. It has GPS but can direct itself. It’s amazing how quick that thing is – it just took off!

I’m a casual with NIWA and did my first trip in 2013 I’ve only done about 4 trips on the Tangaroa.  I’ve been a commercial fisherman most of my working life – about 50 years. As a commercial fisherman my favourite thing about the job is probably that even though it’s still on boats, it is quite different to commercial fishing. It is mostly scientific. But actually, it’s the people I like the most, and the passion they have for their work. On this survey we didn’t catch many fish, but on the Chatham Rise surveys we catch quite a lot. The scientists don’t seem to get tired of it and it makes a great environment to be in.

The 2 main hoki fisheries are on the West coast and in the Cook Strait. I was on the first voyage in 1978, I think. The volume of fish was amazing but also there was one scientist out there who thought the fish were between 60-80 years old. We don’t see that with hoki now. Snapper fishing is similar – there was no quota back then and we see way fewer fish, although they seem to be recovering now.

Below: Melanie holds a Hoki.



Image Alt Here!For those who are interested in commercial fishing stay at school and do something else! I’ve enjoyed my fishing career although there have been ups and downs. Being at sea, you get to see the birds, dolphins, seals… It’s just the environment – it can be pretty cool (although, on a bad day it can be horrible too). I know commercial fishermen have a bad reputation but really, we’re out there because we like the environment. There was one day a couple years ago when my son and I were getting albacore tuna. There were a bunch of whales out there – we left the fish and followed them around for a while (either pygmies or large porpoises – to this day I don’t know what they were). With the tuna-ing we went up and down the coast and it was rare to see whales but all of a sudden, we saw them a lot. It’s not a rarity to see whales now and that’s pretty cool. Most changes we see are not great to see though. The unsustainable ways of the past were not well regulated, that’s just how it was back then


Image Alt Here!

Above: White capped Mollymawk Albatross.