KAIKOURA – SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
Kaikoura – Eat Crayfish (transl. from Maori language)
My first encounter caught me by surprise. Rock-hopping over the large, rugged boulders on the shoreline, I stumbled upon a big, black, rocket shaped seal.
Raising itself up on its flippers, it separated itself from the rock directly in front of me where it had blended with the background. In an awesome display of aggression, its mouth agape and barking fiercely, it swung its huge head in my direction.
I teetered off balance before doing a quick about face, and retreated several metres. Only then did I turn to observe this huge, sleek mammal and was amazed to notice it was not alone. Others of the colony, I counted 15 in total, were draped in various relaxed poses over other boulders nearby.
My arrival had disturbed their rest and some humped and flopped their way over the rocks to plop into the sea. Once in, through the kelp, they darted effortlessly away.
I am in OARO, on the KAIKOURA coast in the South Island of New Zealand. Having observed them here many times since, I now have a deep admiration for these creatures although I have been repelled by the fishy stench of their breath when venturing too close. They – the New Zealand Fur Seal – thrive here because of the abundant fish to be found in these waters.
We are staying in our friends cottage, nestled on the flat at the mouth of a densely wooded valley. The shoreline where the seal colony resides is 200 metres away across a railway track and the coastal road. A small, boulder-strewn creek runs beside the house and when it rains the creek thunders as boulders are impelled, bouncing downstream all the way from up in the mountains. The heavier the rain, the bigger the boulders!
Steep, bush clad mount-ains sweep dramatically skyward directly behind us. They are part of the rugged Seaward Kaikoura Ranges thrusting up from the Pacific Ocean along this coastline. The Inland Kaikouras, which are even higher, remain snow capped most of the year. In winter, when the snow is down to their base, they loom close, brilliant and glistening.
This unspoiled part of New Zealand is rich in native flora and fauna, the sea a bountiful hunting ground for marine mammals and humans alike. Besides the resident seals, whales are a common visitor off-shore. Popular Eco sensitive whale watch tours operate out of the fishing port of Kaikoura and dolphins are frequently seen.
For those keen on fresh seafood, this is a paradise. Paua, the New Zealand Abalone, are found in numbers on the shoreline rocks and boulders just below the low tide line. Cockles are found just to the north. Crayfish are plentiful, and even abiding by the local Fisheries Regulations, you could have this delicacy every day.
Picking your weather, remembering that this is an exposed and rugged part of the coastline, you need only a small boat and adequate fishing tackle to keep yourself, your friends and your neighbours supplied with fish on a regular basis. Species such as Butterfish, Blue Cod, Perch, Kahawai, Groper, Warehou, Terakihi, Moki and Ling are plentiful in the inshore waters. Fresh, scaled and cleaned, smaller fish are delicious simply pan fried on a knob of butter. But the following is a favourite recipe of mine for larger fish.
Barbeque Steamed Whole Moki
Scale, gut and clean the Moki, (or a large fish of your choice).
Lay on a large sheet of aluminium foil and bring the edges up to contain liquid.
Stuff the cavity with whole fresh mussels, cockles, 4 wedges of lemon, a sprig of fresh tarragon (or ¼ teaspoon of dried tarragon), a small finely chopped onion and a knob of butter.
(It’s all right if some of the shellfish spill out.)
Pour a little good white wine over it and season with rock salt and freshly ground pepper.
Seal up the whole fish in the foil and cook slowly on a flat hot-plate on your barbecue.
Test the flesh occasionally to see if it is steamed right through.
Serve with steamed rice.
Copyright © J Cedric Watkins 2009