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Inshore fishing a family affair

Friday 21 February 2014

Chris Jarman grew up in Redcliffs, Christchurch.

"None of my family had any connection with the fishing industry until my older brother did a month long fishing cadet course when he left school. He went out on the Kingfisher and absolutely hated it."

Three years younger and when it was time, Chris decided he'd give this fishing lark a go and did the same course which involved an element of fitness.

"It was a fishing course and they had us running up hills? I didn't know what was going on; was I going fishing or was I in the army?

The promised trip to Antarctica on the Austral Leader never eventuated so Chris, somewhat disappointed, did a 'stint' on the Austro Carina.

"I did one trip out of Lyttelton and they said they wanted me to do another one, which I did. When the boy wanted the next trip off, I did a third one and I got his wages. I was 16 at the time and that was my first ever paid trip."

Chasing red cod, the Austro was going out and after two or three tows coming back in to unload, full.

"It was full on; just bag after bag; pretty wicked! I just loved it and straight away I just knew this was me, it was what I wanted to do."

A week later Chris signed on as deckhand on the 55footer Antares with Archie Laird, out of Lyttelton.

"Archie was a good teacher; it was a real learning curve and for the next nine months we targeting all sorts of things from terakihi, red cod through to flats and dogs. Oh yeah, we'd get big bags of dogs! The back deck was just chocker and we'd knife and bin them all. It took a while and you'd get a good old rash going on. We come in, unload, go back out and do it all again; just dogs after dogs. I can't remember what my percentage was; it wasn't a lot really but it was still good money for me at the time and I did alright on her."

Chris's next berth was the Ida Marion with Eddie Brandon.

"I started out as the 'boy' because I'd only really had about a year's fishing under my belt. We had three crew but occasionally we'd go two-handed; you can on these sized boats which you sometimes had to do if somebody never turned up to sail. I loved the work and I worked hard so eventually when the 1st Mate left I stepped up to that role."

In 2004 after five and a half years with Eddie, Chris saw an opportunity and shipped out the Danish seiner Aotea.

"I'd seen the amounts of fish they were bringing in daily and I thought this was just awesome. Full up and home every night for tea; and do it all again the next day. It was also a pretty economical way of catching fish. I knew the Skipper so I asked if he needed a crew. I was 2nd in line and when the other bloke decided he didn't want the job I jumped on."

During the following two and a half years, Chris sat and passed his ILM ticket. Having a young family it meant the Jarman's had to up sticks and move to Nelson for the duration of the course.

"I'd always thought about doing my deckhand's ticket but never quite got around to it; I was always so tied up working and the courses weren't on when I could get time off so I bypassed it and went straight and did my Skippers. I'm glad I got it, but it's time now to the next

one. I'll probably do the Offshore Master as it'll give me a lot more scope down the track. It's just about finding the time to do it and finding someone who will look after the boat like we do and still be able to catch enough fish to keep the business going and paying the boy his wages."

In 2006, the Jarmans moved to Australia where Chris worked on charter vessels out of Adelaide, Townsville and Cooktown chasing coral trout on the Barrier Reef.

"It was good and it was fun over there but after two and a half years it still didn't quite feel right; it wasn't home."

An opportunistic phone call; the Canopus needed a Skipper and was he interested? Chris was on the first available flight. Two months later his family followed him.

"I ran the Canopus for 4 to 5 months before it was sold which put a bit of a damper on things. We'd moved back from Australia and all of a sudden I'm out of work!"

With the new sewer outfall being built off Brighton Chris managed to find work operating the 'water taxi' taking divers to and from the site as well as a bit of barge work.

"The money was good but it could be bloody boring at times anchored up with not a lot to do other than reading books. Besides it wasn't what I really wanted to do."

Renamed and recently fitted out for trawling, the Te Aroha was in need of a Skipper. However finding crew on short notice isn't easy so Chris approached his two brothers.

"I thought this is going to work really well or it's going to end in tears. It's hard working on a small boat if you don't get on with your crew; there's nowhere to hide, no personal space because you're living on top of each other. There were a few issues over 'authority' at times. We had a few hurdles to jump through; they either wouldn't listen or they thought they knew it all but when push comes to shove they did what they had to do. My older brother was fine; he'd done the cadet course and hated it but he was enjoying this. My younger one was full of mischief but always a hard worker."

Chris fished locally for red cod, elephants, gurnard and flats over the summer moving more offshore through winter targeting terakihi.

"I was skippering for the first time and I think I did all right. I really enjoy catching terakihi; it's a pretty good feeling when you know you've got a few and watching a good bag pop up."

Christmas 2011 it happened again; the Te Aroha was sold and Chris delivered the boat to Nelson for the new owners.

"We'd been fishing together for 18months and now brothers and I were out of work, again! It wasn't a good feeling. My older brother decided that was it; he got out of the industry altogether. My younger brother jumped on the Nessie J."

With issues over job security and a young family to consider, Chris and Amy-Lee were thinking seriously about their future. With no boats left in Lyttelton needing Skippers why not do it themselves?

"For a while now we'd talked about owning our own boat but we didn't know a lot about the business side of things especially when it came to quota; that was the scary issue. But owning a boat would give us a bit of security because no-one could sell it out from under us."

Chris explained that unless you had a huge deposit the banks just weren't interested; they didn't like the fishing industry and didn't want a bar of it.

"If you had that sort of deposit you wouldn't be going to the banks in the first place; you'd have enough to buy the boat. It's easier to buy a house!"

But Chris and Amy-Lee were determined and if you have a boat you need something to catch; you need quota. However their many phone calls resulted either in rejection or quota packages unsuited to the area.

"That's when Talley's came to the party and said sure; we're keen to help young guys into the industry. I had no history with them what so ever yet they were willing to step up to the plate. It was a huge relief."

Based on his catch history, Chris was given a quota package tailored for his area and enough to get him started. They went door knocking again and finally a bank said yes. Now they could look for a boat.

"I was running the Snark doing day trips single handed which wasn't going to work for ever; I was getting tired so I put my feelers out for a crew but there weren't any around at the time."

Cue one James Hovenden aka Jimmy the Parrot. James had grown up around boats where from the age of six he'd been doing 'stints' on the Robert H with Allan Rooney and his step-father 'Stingy' during the school holidays and could stand a watch by the time he was 10!

"He'd get pretty seasick; on a three day trip he'd be sick for the first day and a half, maybe two then he'd come right but every time he'd always turn up to sail. Bugger the seasickness, I'm gonna do it! That's the sort of young fella this industry needs."

Eventually the Jarmans found the Nimbus tied up in Nelson.

"It was big enough to do what we wanted but not too big you'd need 3 or 4 crew; you could fish her 2-handed and probably even single handed if you had to. We bought her in late June 2012 and Parrot and I fished her back to Lyttelton."

"The middle of winter wasn't really the right time to buy a boat; it's the worst time of the year down here. I'd normally be targeting terakihi and I'd done quite well but I just couldn't catch any so it was a bit of a struggle for the first few months. We got through though; the bills got paid, Parrot got a wage but not much else."

For much of the year Chris fishes the Nimbus locally from Kaikoura to Timaru, mostly 'working' the coastline targeting flats between the Ashley and Waimak rivers or targeting soles and flounder along Birdling's Flat.

"Last February we headed around to the Coast to give albacoring a go. We could have gone earlier but the weather hadn't been that great and the boats weren't catching a lot, or so we heard. We got there late; we were only round there about five weeks, caught a wee few; not very much really so it was really only an introduction into the fishery. This year we're going early and give it another go for 3-4 months."

I asked Chris how hard was it for a young fella to get into the industry.

"You've gotta be keen and you've got to be prepared to go door knocking; to stand on the wharf and ask if there's any jobs going? Can I come out and do a trip then do two trips if you can, do them for free if you have to. If you are keen it's easy enough and you'll soon know if you'll like it once you're out there on the water. But you've got to do that first trip!"

"It's a young mans' game. Parrot and me; well we'd just keep going until we were ready to drop then come home and unload or just pull her out of gear and lay-to. Now we do things differently; we're shutting down at least every 2nd night and having a decent sleep which means we can go an extra couple of days. It's a bit of a balancing act; on one hand if the nets out of the water you're not making money. On the other you'd burn out, come home after 3 or 4 days and be so knackered you'd need 3, 4 days to recover! Doing slightly longer tows at night with one of us asleep and the other on the wheel shares the work load and by fishing locally there's always a bay we can anchor up in or shoot into Akaroa and park up alongside the wharf."

Chris explained that it's about finding the right boat and getting on with the crew.

"I haven't had the issue with crew not turning up. In the 18 months that Parrot's been with me he's only asked for two days off! Like me there's every opportunity for him to get his own boat or even move up onto the larger factory trawlers if he wants too, for sure. We'll put him through his deckhands and let him progress up the ladder and get his Skipper's ticket in a few years. I've got ideas of buying a bigger boat and running that and keep the Nimbus for Parrot to run on the inshore."

So how far away is the bigger boat?

"I think we're doing a pretty good job of paying the Nimbus off; we're working hard and there's not a lot left over for us but we just want to become freehold. That'll put us in a better position."

"I've been fishing for 15 years but the business side of it, well we were just brand new, going in green, finding your own way. If we didn't have someone to turn to for help it would have been really hard, maybe impossible. Dion Iorns and Doug Loder at Talleys have been really amazing helping us not only with quota but with the small business side of things. We just ring them up and if they don't know they'll put us onto someone who does. It's kind of like a big family."

Chris does the monthly 'MAF stuff' and returns while Amy-Lee manages the rest of the paperwork while keeping a firm grasp on the financial side of things.

"If I had to do that as well, it'd do my head in. I'd have to take time off, come in when I should be fishing to sort out GST and all that sort of stuff. It's almost impossible for someone to run a boat and keep up with all the paperwork and compliance and it's getting worse. Now they've got this MOSS system coming in and I haven't even looked into it yet; haven't had the time. I'm still trying to get my head around the old SSM system."

Is the issue of quota too much of a barrier for those like yourselves thinking of committing to the industry?

"The dream would be to buy our own quota but realistically it's just not going to happen, well not in the immediate future. Most of it is tied up with the big boys or already being fished, tied up in contracts with other vessels. The older fellas; they're going to retire eventually and their boats sold to other fishermen or turned into pleasure boats. Hopefully that'll free up quota so maybe there'll be an opportunity to pick some up later on."

"And you get that happy balance with fishing and family life as well" explains Amy-Lee. "We've got Maddison who is 10 and Dylan is 7. Whether he does day trips or is away 2 or 3 days, Chris is still able to come in and spend time with his family."

"If there's a storm I don't have to sail, I can stay home. On a bigger boat I'd have to head out so it's a good balance."

Speaking of family affair, they all turn-to to help when the Nimbus comes in.

"Maddy knows what valves to open and close and can start the main and she's pretty good at shifting ice around too. Dylan's a bit young but he'll tell you he can steer her and they're both pretty good at putting empties (cases) on the boat."

Chris is positive about the future of the inshore and doesn't see a problem with the fish stocks.

"I actually think the inshore fishery is healthy. We can still go down and catch our red cod and flats and gurnards and elephants. They (MPI) have got to do more science work because the quotas for this area need to be raised."

"That's why we bought into it. If there was no 'inshore' who's going to catch your cod, your gurnard and soles, the flounder and elephants; the fish for the fish and chips shops."

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