Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Great news --- We are heading out tonight!
I am with Pete Saul, a seasoned saltwater fisherman from Tutukaka, North Island. Pete (along with John Holdsworth) are co-founders of Blue Water Marine Research, a fisheries consulting company specializing in pelagic and sportsfisheries. Pete is also a writer and submits columns to Blue Water Magazine in Australia, Trade A Boat in New Zealand, and other West Pacific marine pubs.
Quite serenditiously, we encountered a New Zealand media personality, Graeme Sinclair, while we were waiting for word on weather at our hotel. Graeme was here to do a story on Greymouth and big bluefin. Graeme's colleagues spotted my Tag-A-Giant jacket and immediately wanted to know more. As it turns out, Pete has also known Graeme for years -- and, in short order, Graeme kindly offered to let us both join him on a bluefin fishing trip tonight off Westport.
This is an outstanding opportunity (no pun intended) but, fortuitiously, Larry Johnson, skipper of our partner vessel, Cerveza, has also kindly invited one of us to join his crew and fishers for a run to Westport tonight. Pete and I have decided to divide and conquer. I will depart with Larry at 10:00 p.m. and Pete is en route to Westport right now to meet with Graeme and his crew on the vessel Jewel.
So, our patience in Greymouth may finally be rewarded with a chance to tag some huge tuna tonight and tomorow. Large groups of huge tuna have been spotted around hoki trawlers off Westport , about 70 miles north by sea, and all of the local vessels are already there or en route soon. The reports are excellent -- up to 30 fish have been spotted around a single trawler.
The hoki trawlers come from all over the world. Many of the boats are from Eastern Europe (especially Russia), but there are also several boats from Korea and Japan. New Zealand also has a number of trawlers.
The ships basically circumnavigate a trench within which the hoki have concentrated to spawn. The boats move in circles around the clock, setting and hauling in their trawl nets. Hoki is a mid-water trawling fishery -- the nets are not dragged along the bottom and don't tear up the sea floor. The sportfishing vessels follow the trawlers and target the giant bluefin that are chasing the dead and dying hoki spilling from the trawl nets.
The hoki boats operate on a quota system. A hoki quota is allocated to the industry players and distributed across all fishing vessels. Once the quota has been filled, the hoki fishing ceases. The hoki vessels attract groups of the large tuna, and without hoki trawlers around, it becomes very difficult to find bluefin. Thus, there is an interesting relationship between commerical and sportfishing vessels here that may occur in few other places on the planet.
Here in Greymouth, we are very excited and are packing gear. It is raining like crazy right now, but the winds have died down. The weather looks good for next few days and we hope to make the most of it!
Wish us luck, tight lines, and tagging opportunities.
Friday, August 17, 2007
TAG's Dr. Andy Seitz is in Carry Le Rouet, France (~20 km west of Marseilles) for a few weeks working with a local team who would like to deploy electronic tags on bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea. He arrived on Saturday morning and fished the next four days. The first two days, they fished for giants, but did not have any luck. No one has seen any giants yet this year, so they fished in areas where giants have been caught in past years. After two days of seeing nothing, they changed areas and caught some small school-sized bluefin. The area had a lot of life...fin whales, common dolphins and many sea birds. All of the fish they caught were 13-23 kg....too small to tag.
The next few days are supposed to be windy, so they will probably stay on shore.
Up until today, we've had tons of rain. Unfortunately, in spite of the recent clear weather, the ocean has been extremely rough. It's been way too rough to enable us to fish. The Greymouth docks are lined with charter boats filled with frustrated skippers and their crew members -- everyone is rather glum about the weather and the slow fishing so far.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
I arrived in Greymouth on the 9th and am organizing gear right now. At the moment we are dealing with some bad weather. There is a big low from the southwest moving through quickly, but it's kicking up a lot of rain and heavy winds -- up to 57 mph (50 knots). It looks like our first good weather window may be Sunday morning -- keep your fingers crossed. Thus far fishing has been hot for southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii), with many of the fish in the jumbo-size range, up to 331 pounds (150 kilograms). The record is 348 pounds (158 kilograms). Fishing for giant Pacific bluefin (Thunnus orientalis) has been slow -- so far 2 fish have been caught. A third fish broke off at the wire on the the boat Cerveza, our partner vessel.
This is how sportfishermen go after southern and Pacific bluefin: they follow the hoki trawlers, giant floating 24-hour fish factories that slowly plow the seas around New Zealand and pull in giant nets filled with hoki (see picture above). A lot of other animals -- bluefin tuna, sharks, albatross -- go after the fish slipping from the nets. [ed. note: Hoki -- also known as blue grenadier, blue hake, New Zealand whiptail, whiptail or whiptail hake -- are an enormous commercial fishery. They're one of five types of fish used in McDonald's fish fillet sandwiches worldwide. McDonald's restaurants in New Zealand alone serve about 300 metric tons (661,500 pounds) in fish sandwiches every year.]
The hoki trawlers have been concentrating their effors south of Hokitika, about 25 miles south of here. At the moment, they're smack in the middle of the worst winter weather. They should be working their way up to the Hokitika trench duing the next week. Once the trawlers arrive en masse, the Pacific bluefin tuna fishing should improve markedly.
While we wait for the weather to clear, we're going to canvas the docks and boats to ask skippers to provide us with tissue and data -- such as sea surface temperature, location, and length -- for all the bluefin they catch.
Hopefully we will be on the water no later than Monday, if we're lucky! I'll keep you posted.