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“Be keen and love the sea”, Craig Jones, mentor to young fishers


June 22, 2022

craig jones nets

They need to be keen. And they need to want to go to sea.

Those are the main attributes Craig Jones looks for in a beginner deckhand.

Craig is a West Coast owner-operator running the FV Cook Canyon from Greymouth with his wife Penny. He is committed to encouraging young people into fishing and is often the go-to for Westport Deep Sea Fishing School students looking for their first job. In late 2021 he started to place one trainee on each trip, in addition to his usual crew of four, and wants to keep doing this.

If they are keen and also fit enough for the physical work the next step is to ‘get them out there and see if it’s what they want’, says Craig.

“It’s a good trade. There’s opportunity to earn good money and if someone starts when they leave school they could fish for the rest of their lives. That’s how much it gets in your blood.”

Craig’s interest in young people is shared by his daughter Amy Moore, the third generation in her proudly West Coast family to work in the seafood sector. She is a consultant for commercial fishing among other primary industries and works with the West Coast Trades Academy to encourage school leavers into fishing.

Craig rates education and training highly. His own operation, with two skippers alternating on inshore fishing trips up to 25 nautical miles from shore, isn’t so big that new deck crew can’t learn on the job with the addition of specific courses such as MarineSAFE. But he has also put new crew through the Westport Deep Sea Fishing School before sending them to sea, and says training is essential for anyone looking at work on large operations like factory vessels.

“Fishing is safe enough but nothing’s fool-proof, so get the training done and keep it up to date.

“The technology has changed the way we fish and we’re getting better all the time. The fish stocks are being managed better so I see a great future for fishers starting out, if they show the necessary initiative and drive.”

He has young fishers to mentor and also owns a fishing net business in Greymouth, a ‘good rainy day activity’ that keeps him up to speed with sustainable net design.

“We are forever adjusting net design. The main focus now is on mesh size, increasing it and also the size of cod ends and the shape of the mesh itself to let more juvenile and small fish swim out of the net.”

An inshore fisher for Talley’s, Craig is a fan of New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS), having been in the industry both before and after the system came in.

“Sustainable fishing is about looking after our fish stocks as well as the environment. The QMS is regarded as one of the best in the world and with continual improvements it’s getting better all the time. You will always get a bit of expected variation in the abundance of some fish stocks, and that’s something that we all come to know, but overall the system is outstanding and ensures we maintain sustainable fish stocks.

“I’m proud to have been part of it for so long, particularly when I consider where we may have ended up without it.”

Craig is also happy to contribute to the data and science that informs QMS adjustments, via onboard electronic monitoring required for each trawl.

“It’s the skipper’s job to enter the data via satellite or phone, and it beats doing it on paper, like when I started out.” Craig also appreciates the more detailed data collection by fisheries observers.

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