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Meet Adam Clow - commercial fisherman, free diver, conservationist and philosopher.

By Pauline Stewart.

The Informer found Adam down at the Whitianga wharf after a fishing trip. He was cleaning fish and his boat.

Beginnings: I grew up in Coroglen on a deer farm. My father was a cray fisherman, and his father before him. I wanted to be a fisherman for as long as I can remember. My very earliest memories are of diving and catching crayfish and Mum would run the deer farm. When I was a teenager, we moved out to Hot Water Beach. There was three of us; I was the middle child. I love it here. I earn my living and there’s lots of surfing and diving, and trips offshore.

School holidays were always spent on board the fishing boats. We made our living from fishing and deer farming.

In terms of schooling, I did not have a very good relationship with school. I was dyslexic and struggled. But I didn’t struggle with hunting or fishing, and I learned to free dive - holding my breath and diving down without an aqualung. Free diving is my preferred technique, it comes naturally from being in the ocean a lot. My dad was a free diver. We would have club dives. Come Sunday, all the divers and spear fishermen from the community would gather at the wharf and then go out to the Mercury Islands, or the Alderman islands and the older guys would teach us. First, they would teach the risks, we learned about fish species, where to find them, always diving with a buddy, carrying a knife for safety and the different techniques required for different species.

The limit for free diving for me is about 20 metres and that’s when I’m fit and have been working up to it for a few days. It needs to be a good day - when you are feeling good and are relaxed, in condition and in control of your body and mind.

My teachers, apart from my father, were Peter Herbert, Pat Swanson and Collin Smith. Two friends in particular, Duane Herbert and Julian Hansford, are now New Zealand’s top spear fishermen.

Business is good, but it’s hard work being a commercial fisherman, but I find it very rewarding. My intuition and hunting instincts to catch fish as well as maintaining a well running fishing vessel.

Conservation and commercial fishing: I’m involved in conservation work, as a trapper for the Purangi Conservation Trust. I have always had a strong passion for nature. When I got our little bit of land for my family, I spent time ridding the land of the pests - the stoats, rats and possums were all there. It’s hard to get every last one - but you can make a big difference trapping. I don’t think the bulk of people understand what trouble our ecosystem is in and what it is facing when it comes to pests. We are one of the bird capitals of the world and once we were pest free. Now there are so many endangered species of birds, It’s an uphill battle.

It is everyone’s right to go fishing in this country, and we are lucky enough to have enough fish for everyone. The best thing about commercial fishing is you don’t have to feed the fish; it has a very small footprint for food production. I hope commercial fishing carries on in this country and that it doesn’t get so locked up that people can’t go fishing. There is a lot of misinformation regarding commercial fishing and like in all sectors there is many good operators using best practice.

Sedimentation is the elephant in the room, we need to look seriously into this issue, it is very complex and will require a holistic approach.

What about the future?

Anyone who lives in New Zealand is extremely lucky to live here. Kiwis take this life for granted. I have travelled by sea to other lands, but this is my home. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

In terms of the future, I am an optimistic person, but I think many are stuck in a rut of living day to day, rather than addressing the big picture problems that our earth faces. It’s hard to tackle these big issues however we can make a conscious effort to do something small every day.

In the middle of Adam sharing his views, he noticed that a shag feeding near the boat had a hook in its neck. Without missing a line of conversation, he caught the shag and took out the hook.

Personal: The sea is a lonely sort of place particularly when night falls, when you spend the night out wide. That can be a little bit unnerving, but then again, sometimes it feels great - you’re a long way from the problems on shore. Generally, I can be away four of five nights at a time but then I’m home. And it feels great to sit with my 3 children in front of the fire.

It is satisfying when I come in with a variety of fish, not just snapper, fishing is seasonal.

Winter is the best as we get better fishing the colder it gets – there seems to be less people out there on the water and it feels like I have the whole ocean to myself.

It’s not easy to keep this life balance - especially when your work takes you away. I don’t always get that right.

Caption: Adam Clow cares deeply for his community – the one on land the one on and in the ocean.


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