Tawharanui Crayfish

By Alan Morrison

Recently I experienced some unique dives that made me re-think my opinion on crayfish. That’s not to say it has altered their culinary appeal to me, rather I have a higher opinion of their capabilities. As most of you may be aware the north east side of Tawharanui peninsula received full marine reserve status earlier this year.

Prior to that it had been a marine park. One subtle difference in the regulations is that there is no ban on feeding the inhabitants in a marine park.

Local underwater cameraman and movie maker Steve Hatherway was intent on filming some of the large crayfish that reside there and invited me along for a few dives as I was trying to capture some of the action on film.

So with that in mind and the knowledge that it was shortly to obtain full reserve status we motored around to the reef just off the main beach. Armed with a bag of pilchards to entice those big bugs we descended in about six metres. This spot is pretty much right under the popular surf break. One thing quickly becomes apparent, there are lots of crayfish here including some very big ones.

Now I’ve always thought of crayfish as being … well …  just dumb crustaceans, but they do have some sort of personalities, or possibly some are just more hungry. One large male marched straight out, all ‘bolshie’ and even crawled over my camera’s lens ripping into the offered snack.

A few metres away another big buck appeared absolutely terrified at the sight of the proffered pilchard. He rapidly backed off pushing a few of his harem out as decoys. Some of the smaller crayfish were quite aggressive but not this big fellow although he must have had something going for him because he could obviously pull the ladies.

On another dive further towards Tokatu Point we came upon another large buck sitting out in the open, this big fellow proved the most entertaining of the lot. Upon waving a pilchard in front of his antenna I enticed him to follow me as I backed away, he must have followed that pilchard for eight or nine metres.

When I stopped to give him his well earned reward he decided he deserved more and went for the whole bag. I’m sure Steve got some entertaining footage although the big buck stirred up the silt on the bottom in his endeavors which made capturing images more difficult.

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