Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sea Food collecting

There are people who love sea food, and there are people who loath them. Generally the Anglo-saxon people are not very keen in them. But the Maoris, Polynesians, Chinese, vietnamese, and Greeks, we all love them. My Vietnamese student T. tells me that his dad takes him rock fishing after school on Mondays. I teased if I could come along, and he says it is very dangerous.
Fisheries, police bust illicit $1.3m paua operation
6:09PM Tuesday May 27, 2008

Police and fisheries officers today began dawn raids on houses and business premises in a massive poaching bust centred on a Wellington-based man trading as much as a tonne of illicit paua each week.

"He would typically pay his divers $17/kg for the paua meat and on-sell it for about $50/kg," said Fisheries Ministry national investigations manager Shaun Driscoll.

This was generating $13,000 a week for the man - who was arrested today - and $7000 for his divers, and showed paua poaching was being seen as a "lucrative criminal enterprise".

The big bust - dubbed Operation Paid - has implicated not only Mongrel Mob gangsters and Asian restaurateurs, but some of the people who escaped the ministry's 2002 Operation Pacman after the Appeal Court found a 2001 law change had made it legal to receive money for poached seafood.

The work of two undercover officers in that operation crashed and burned when more than 20 men who had pleaded guilty to poaching and served jail terms had their convictions quashed. One couple were even reimbursed thousands of dollars for their 184kg of seized paua.
When I  first arrived in NZ in 1978, I used to go with my flatmates and friends to Howick and Eastern Beach.We would go out to the sea and look for pipies digging with our hands. We were not very successful, and we salivate the large amounts that the Maoris and Polynesians harvested with using a hoe and dredging the beach and collecting them in their flax baskets.
What little we had, we opened up, and the hungry ones just ate them dripping with their juice. A Singaporean friend said that in Singapore, the hawker centre would add uncooked clams or HAMS into their noodles called CHAR KUEH TIEW, (this has been stopped with the fear of hepitatis and the cook will cook the HAMS til they become rubbery and nobody wants to eat them.)
Pipies is local term used in NZ , Pepies in Australia and lalas in Singapore. They are of a type of shell fish. They are located in the beach just on the water line and they bury themselves in the sand. When the waves rush to shore they are exposed and we pick them up. cockles are the bigger shellfish and the pepies are the smaller version. lala in Singapore.
I was at a party with old friends and we recounted our experiences with collecting shell fish.
Not so long ago, we were camping at Leigh, not very far from Goat island. It was an experimental centre of Auckland University for Marine life. The water was very cold and it was high tide, so we didn't attempt to find any sea food.
On our way home, we were stopped by the fishery officers. He had a looked at our packed car, and waved us on. I was disappointed. I wanted them to take all our luggage out, and I wanted to see their disappointed look, not one sea shell. (I did see a kina empty shell but I didn't bring it home, wish I did.)
I bitched at this with my siblings when I came home. They said the fishery officer's nose is very sharp, one whiff of the car, they know if we were hiding any shell fish. We did see cars that there stopped and checked. Then I read about fishery officers fining people who over harvest shell fish there.
Back in 1980, we went with Uncle Kok Fei and Cousin Henry AhHang to collect mussels in Whakatane. We took so much horse mussels. We were allowed 150 per car, and only after the mussels had grown to a certain size. So at the end of the collection, we counted our 150 and only big ones. We threw the rest back to the sea. I don't know if they would survive.
We didn't care, everyone was doing it. You see, we had to dive down the deep channel to collect a bunch of mussels, everything, bug and small, grandma and grand child mussel came up. We didn't have time to separate them as the tide was coming up. Soon, it was too deep to collect anymore.
Now, the water engineer would not eat those mussels. he said the bay was polluted by dioxin from the timber factory that Ah hang worked as a forester.
This anecdote by the Wong family at the party stood up as the best story that night.
Susan: I can't remember if this story had been told. It was one summer when we went gallivanting to the beach. Anyway, we went to a rocky beach and there were many small shells stuck on the rocks. They were oysters size, mother decided that they could be edible and looked like abalone. We spent the whole afternoon collecting the shells.
When we got on to the car with our sack, we saw a sign that it was illegal to collect more than 10 shells and they were for research. It was dilema whether to throw the shells back to the sea. Mother said if we were questioned, she would said that she couldn't read English and it would have been too late for the abalones. We bundled our shells and hurried out of the area.
When we got back home, they were the most delicous and most tender because they were baby abalones. Mother wanted to go back and collect some more. Unfortunately, we didn't have courage to go back and neither did we get another chance.
Jack, Susan's brother: It is completely illegal to pick abalone in Australia. In fact there are very little left. The only ones available are in Tasmania but they are very strictly controlled. Only licensed fishermen are allowed to pick them in licensed areas.
When the Vietnamese and Greeks first wave of migration started about 25 years ago there were plenty. Back in those days whenever we go to the beach we can pick plentiful of pepies or sea shells but after a few years the Greeks and Vietnamese cleaned out all the pepies and there is none left. They just ignored the law. They adopted mother’s defence “ me speaky no English!”

 When we go to the beach nowadays we don’t even see a single one. They used to pick them by the sacks. When Cousin James  came to stay with us, about 30 years ago, I remember during the first few days of his arrival we took him to the beach and he tried to pick pepies but didn’t have the know how and he saw this Greek woman picking plenty so he went to her location and he received the biggest scolding and he was chased away. He was so traumatized! We told him that he could not invade someone’s territory!

I am sure that Susan and Jenny can remember those days. I think Mary wasn’t keen!

Jenny: I remember my Brighton Beach days collecting cockles and mussels with Jack and his friends. The first time, I thought all these people were so slow in the collection while I quickly filled up the bucket. Then Jack came and threw the undersized ones back because we might be caught and fined. In our enthusiam, we forgot the incoming tide and Jack threw some away so that we wouldn't get our heads below water. Ha, if Mother was around, we would have enough so much earlier and left the place before the tide came.

Jack: Was that the time when we nearly drowned trying to cross the estuary and the tide was sweeping in very rapidly? I remembered we had to cross a few shallow outlets to the sandy beach and by the time we got back the tide has come in and the water was up to our chest and rising very rapidly. I also remembered we had to let go some of the cockles inorder to cross quickly and survive. I think there was a big group with a few Malaysian friends as well. It could be the same incident!! Imagine if we drowned for the sake of some cockles!

Diane of another family: I went to the beach once by myself. I caught some myself , I copied the Greek women who used their t-shirts to hold the shells. It was a very busy public beach where people were surfing and sunbathing. That was my meal that night, it was very very nice. Picking with the toothpick while watching TV. My favourite is still the undercooked cockles, blood still dripping when you open the shells. That's my comfort food.

1 comment:

Anne said...

Interesting post!! I too love sea food...