Photo John Morin D8327-18

EMMELINE Taylor was hooked on a longline, which was being reeled in, while swimming at Ohope Beach a week ago.

A WOMAN is calling for change after she was hooked and was being reeled in by a longline while swimming at Ohope Beach.

Emmeline Taylor was swimming with a friend at the popular beach on the weekend when she suddenly felt an “excruciating pain” in her foot.

“I thought it was a pesky crab, and I tried to shake it off, but I couldn’t,” said Ms Taylor.

“I lifted my foot up and saw, to my horror, this big hook was caught deep in my foot near where my tendon goes to my ankle.”

Even worse for Ms Taylor, the hook was still attached to an electric kontiki longline which was being reeled in about 500 metres down the beach.

The owners had no idea they had caught Ms Taylor on their line and Ms Taylor said the force of the water pulling her out and the winch pulling her in forced the hook deeper and deeper into her foot.

Ms Taylor’s friend broke the line and carried her out of the water. While he was fetching the car to take her to hospital Ms Taylor crawled up the beach, unable to walk.

The owners of the longline approached her on the beach to see if she was okay, and Ms Taylor explained they had hooked her foot.

“They were absolutely horrified. No long-liner wants to mutilate or catch a swimmer,” Ms Taylor said.

“There’s a lot of longlines on the beach and all think they’re safe, but the tide actually pulls the line down the beach and near where people are swimming.

“There’s no sign on top of the water that there’s hooks beneath.”

Following her accident, Ms Taylor said she would like to see regulations dictating where people could longline and swim safely.

“You can’t mix the two activities; just the other day I saw a guy with a longline out between two surfers and it’s so dangerous,” said Ms Taylor.

“It could have easily been an eye; it could’ve easily popped out an eye. Or it could’ve been a little kid, it could’ve hooked their leg or their chest.”

“It had never occurred to me before, I had never considered that happening. But once you’re hooked it’s a really terrible thing.”

While Ms Taylor’s foot is on the mend following her hospital visit, she would like the Whakatane District Council to put in place regulations similar to those in place at Tauranga beaches.

Tauranga City Council put in place a beaches bylaw last year that bans longline and other kontiki devices on beaches between the hours of 10am and 5pm from December 15 to February 15 each year. They are also not allowed within 300m of any flagged lifeguard area.

Acting Tauranga City Council regulatory and compliance general manager Ray Day said the council introduced the summer season restriction to ensure the safety of beachgoers.

Mr Day said the bylaw referred to a longline fitted with multiple hooks in recognition that a longline launched via a kite or kayak could also pose a danger to swimmers.

“During our Long Term Plan consultation, we received submissions from the public who had concerns about longlining where people swim or surf,” Mr Day said.

“We also did some consultation around the issue and received feedback noting concerns about kontikis.

“We also received two complaints, one in December and one in January. These were after the restriction had been planned.”

However, Whakatane District Council manager of public affairs Ross Boreham said the jurisdiction issues around the bylaw were complex as district councils had responsibility for beaches to the low water mark, but beyond that in the water it becomes a regional council responsibility.

“I think everyone would have considerable sympathy for the person who was injured, that is definitely not the sort of experience we want people to have on our beaches,” Mr Boreham said.

“Our Beaches Bylaw does not cover kontiki use, but even if it did have a provision similar to Tauranga City’s bylaw, it would not have altered the outcome in this situation.

“Our Places and Open Spaces team has given some thought to this and do not favour a bylaw, which would be difficult to enforce, but suggest that there is a duty of care for all beach users to take reasonable care that their activities do not adversely affect other users.”

Mr Boreham said NZ Sport Fishing has a suggested code of practice which sets out some sensible safeguards.

These include:

  • Maintain 500m clearance from flagged swimming areas
  • Minimum distance of 400m between longline fishers
  • Respect other water users
  • Keep fishing gear near the water’s edge
  • Maintain a watch on fishing gear to prevent line drift.