Fishing Kiwi Rock Lobster

'A Day in the Life'




Darren King Turner’s day at sea in Fiordland typically begins before daybreak. “My crewman, great friend and co-skipper Gareth Macrae and I enjoy a cup of tea, while heading out the fiord in the Ata Whenua to the open coast, expecting to travel anywhere from 50 to 100 nautical miles for the round trip. Fiordland is very dramatic and our ‘office wallpaper’ can change just not daily but often within minutes.”


The weather is the main topic of conversation as the Ata Whenua gets underway. “Weather controls everything we do and every decision we make is dependent on it from the extremes of high temperature, high winds, higher seas and crazily high rainfall to conditions that seem so favourable sometimes that you wonder what the next week will throw at you to make up for it.”


“Our main catching and live aboard vessel, the state-of-the-art, high -tech aluminium 18.5m 1000hp Ata Whenua was built in Southland in 2010 and enables us to move throughout the whole management area in supreme comfort and safety. She is big and fast with the best of technology which allows us to go to areas where there is less competition to harvest some of our quota. This season to mark 30 years at sea I have added a new vessel, the Tessa B, which is a 12m 900hp twin jet alloy cray boat built for the Chatham islands fishery. Gareth and I intend to share driving duties on both vessels, with Gareth taking on more of the driving as we train new recruits to the fishery.”


“Once at sea the lifting, emptying, baiting and resetting of pots soon becomes rhythmical. Each pot is unknown and there may be 100 pulled in a day. None go back in the same spot and there are always decisions to be made with each pot – such as bottom type, depth of water and size of fish. The catch remains on board in a dark, cool humid environment and at the end of the day the lobster are loaded into 15kg baskets and transferred either to a Fiordland Lobster holding facility, a waiting truck or sometimes even a helicopter for transfer to an export facility.”


“Our working day can be anything up to 12-15 hours and we always try to stop somewhere calm for a good mid-morning meal. It’s not just the boat that needs fuel! The on board facilities are extremely comfortable and the Ata Whenua has separate bedrooms and bathrooms as well as a dry live fish hold capable of storing over two tonnes of lobster above and below deck.”


“We love the lifestyle and the spectacular environment we work in but the disadvantages are that we do miss out on some important events as well as kids’ sport and family birthdays. But in saying that we now spend a lot less days at sea to fill our lobster quota. When I first started fishing it took 230 days to catch 10 tonnes of lobster – today it is around 50 days to land 40 tonnes. When we are not catching lobster though we spend a few weeks of the year gill netting shark for the Australian market.” “Whatever, we do appear to manage things so that Gareth never misses duck shooting opening weekend, and we always make it to the major rugby tests when they come south!”