17 Nov 2016

Crayfish confused by quake ushered back into the water

1:16 pm on 17 November 2016

Disorientated crayfish, thrust out of the ocean onto the Kaikoura coastline, have been slowly ushered back into the water by locals.

300 kg of crayfish waiting in the fridge at Takahanga marae for the hundreds of locals and stranded tourists tomorrow.

Crayfish were an important source of food for quake-stricken residents and tourists in Kaikoura this week. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Along the Kaikoura coastline, earthquake conversation keeps turning to the native crayfish for which the coast is named.

A horde of escaped crayfish (koura) was a side effect of Monday's massive 7.8 magnitude shake, according to Ward resident Kerry Snell.

"When we got to the [Burkhart Fish] factory, the crayfish that were ready for the load-out, all the bins had tipped over and there were crayfish crawling everywhere. A couple of hundred. I think it was two tonnes of crayfish, just all crawling around. Disoriented too, as we all were."

There were also wandering crays down on the coast, where the force of the big quake had pushed the land up several metres, exposing rocks and thrusting koura out of the sea.

With their senses confounded by their new surroundings, the crayfish were unable to find their way back to the ocean, and by Tuesday word had spread through the coastal settlements along State Highway 1 about the easy pickings to be had.

Jim Devine - who lives just south of Ward - was outraged that the authorities already appeared to be on the case.

"MAF were hiding in trees! You can quote me to whoever you like!"

A Ministry of Primary Industries ute was spotted by RNZ cruising back from Ward beach.

On Ward beach, the coastal rock shelf was raised by the force of the quake. Local fishermen estimated the rock shelf was 2m higher.

The rock on the Kaikoura coastline rose by up to 2m after the quake, locals have estimated. Photo: RNZ/Kate Newton

At the emergency welfare centre at Ward Town Hall, police, Department of Conservation staff and Red Cross were all discussing the crayfish conundrum.

One volunteer suggested that locals were putting the sea life back in the water.

"Yeah, back from the sack that they've just put them into," someone snorted.

But Koko Lambert, who lives at Ward beach, said her husband was among those who had ushered the koura back into the water.

"People were trying to get together to go to Cape Campbell to do the same - just put what sea life there is that's been exposed back into the sea.

"If they're dead they're no good to anybody."

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