Miss Maura, Hampton Harbor

PETE LAGERSTROM

Fisherman:  GILLNETTER

Pete Lagerstrom

Pete Lagerstrom

“We haven’t been catching much,” shares fishermen Pete Lagerstrom, as he pushes the dinghy away from the dock, the morning sun just beginning to peek past the horizon in a glow of orange.  “We got 1 box of fish yesterday.”  He wastes no time, jumping straight to the catch: The fish just aren’t around.  “It’s starting out to be the worst fishing year yet.” We approach the starboard side of his 41 foot Bruno & Stillman fishing vessel and climbs aboard.  His deckhand Ronnie scrambles around preparing the deck as Pete starts the engine, unties and we soon exit Hampton Harbor off to deeper waters in search of fish.

Hampton Harbor

Hampton Harbor

Sunrise at Hampton Harbor

Sunrise at Hampton Harbor

Steaming Out

Steaming Out

Pete has spent a lifetime on the water, always having fished as a kid, and he grew up working on party boats, as did his brother.  He got his captains license early on and captained party boats for several years until he got tired of the crowd associated with the profession and their antics.  At the time his friends were making good money fishing and he decided he would make a go of it.  He’s been gillnetting on and off over 25 years now.  When asked his favorite thing about fishing, over the hum of the engine he responds, “Just being out on the water.  Even a bad day fishing is a good day.  Like yesterday, we didn’t catch nothing…but it was a beautiful day.  I had fun.”

His Signature Buoys

His Signature Buoys within the Fleet

Hauling the 1st String

Hauling the 1st String

Lagerstrom typically fishes 3 or 4 strings 16-20 miles offshore 7 days a week from June to Christmas, but worries this year may be different.  With the 78% cut in fishermen’s cod quota this new fishing year, most of our NH fishermen are faced with a severe reduction in the total allowable catch they are able to land at the docks each day.  With the dramatic cut in Pete’s cod quota he fears he may be done a lot earlier in the season this fishing year and may be forced to consider other work.  Though he’s on the hunt for a good day fishing, in reality it could end up shortening his season.  He comments that if he were able to catch 2,000 pounds of fish in that one day, that he probably would end up hauling all his gear and going home so as not to catch all his quota in the first month of fishing.  Such tactics make for a conflicting day on the water.

Picking Fish

Picking Fish

Hauling

Hauling

Fellow fisherman Ricky Anderson comes through on the radio with complaints of only 300 pounds of dogfish on his first string of the day.  Pete reaches for the radio to respond.  “That’s weird.  We had 1,000 pounds there yesterday.”  He checks his spiral bound notebook again for his previous day’s coordinates.   “That’s the thing about sustainability,” he continues in reference to our conversation about sustainable fisheries.  “It doesn’t seem very stable to me.  You never know what to expect from one day to the next.”

Radio Chat

Radio Chat

I quickly notice the cleanliness of his boat, an anomaly for a fishing vessel.

“I think this is the cleanest boat I’ve seen yet,” I proclaim.

He breaks out laughing and repeats my comment over the radio.  “You hear that boys.”  He chuckles.  “The cleanest boat.”  Disbelief and crude remarks from surrounding fishermen are returned over radio wires.  He blows his cover and hands back his cleanest boat award uncovering the fact that it’s the very beginning of the fishing year for him since he got a late start waiting for some paperwork to be approved.

Filleting Fresh Fish

Filleting Fresh Fish

Lagerstrom spends his winters, Christmas to April participating in his second favorite hobby after fishing: snowmobiling.  He holds the title of President of the Umbagog Snowmobile Club which boasts over 1,200 members.  He has been a member of the club the past 15 years.   According to Pete it’s cheaper to register a snow mobile in New Hampshire if you are a member of a club; membership fees go towards grooming and maintaining the backcountry trails.  He also enjoys visiting his friends in the Florida Keys during the winter where he spends his time recreational fishing.  It’s not long before I discover his love affair with cold, draft beer and chicken wings.  “When I retire, I want to open a chicken wing hut in the keys.”  I can’t help but laugh, and he continues to go on about all the best places to acquire the best wings on the seacoast.  When not traveling he resides in Hampton with his wife and their beloved golden retriever, Louis.

Wolffish

Wolffish

Endangered Wolffish Thrown Back

Endangered Wolffish Thrown Back

When I ask about how he received his nickname, Snake, within the local fleet he confesses.  “I wouldn’t tell the guys what I was really catching most of the time.”  He mentions he has since changed his ways and he’s quick to add, “You can’t hide anything anymore, anyway.”  Typically Pete works with 2 deckhands, but with the fishing off to such a slow start, he begins the season with just one, Ronnie, who has been fishing with Pete the past 2 years.  I ask him his thoughts on our new community supported fishery, NH Community Seafood.  “Hopefully it will work out and be a good thing for the consumers,”  he pauses, “and hopefully the fishermen too.”  He asks me a few questions about how it works and how it’s been going.  “I just can’t believe you got them eating dogfish,” he exclaims.  “And they like it?”  I smile big and nod.  You can see him thinking it over, the thought of eating dogfish shark, an under-appreciated fish nearly absent from local markets throughout the northeast.  “Huh…maybe I’ll try it some time,” he says.  

Eat Fresher Fish

Eat Fresher Fish

From Fisherman Pete Lagerstrom to NH Seafood Consumers:

“Do you know where tilapia comes from?  Stop eating it.  And the next time you pick up a bag of shrimp, think about where it’s from.”

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NH Community Seafood

My Dear Friends, Family, and online acquaintances: I  made it back from the Caribbean a week ago today, and have been cold ever since; Big Surprise.  Since I’ve returned home, I’ve hit the ground running on my latest business venture with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Josh Wiersma, Sector Manager of the New Hampshire fishing fleet.  Together we are working to establish a large-scale Community Supported Fishery (CSF) within our Seacoast community, called NH Community Seafood.   For those of you wanting more information, as defined by Local Catch, a national network of CSF’s, the key components to a successful Community Supported Fishery are to:

  • Establish a transparent chain-of-custody from boat to fork;
  • Increase access to premium, locally caught seafood;
  • Ensure fishers receive a fair price for their catch that reflects the value of their work;
  • Engage fishers and community members in more robust, viable, local food systems;
  • Provide a framework through which fishers and customers alike can creatively steward our marine resources.
Portsmouth Harbor

Portsmouth Harbor

We hope to be dishing all you fine folk with the freshest fish you could possibly ever imagine starting June 2013, prior to which we will be accepting members for 8 week shares throughout the summer and fall.  As of right now the plan is to offer 1 lb. and 2 lb. shares, as well as an UnderDog share consisting of strictly underutilized marginal species, such as dogfish, hake, and whiting, for a significantly lower cost.  Our website along with pricing and more information should be up and running by the end of the month at which point I will be sure to share it with all of you.

Fresh Catch

Fresh Catch

We have been working extremely hard from all directions to get this Community Supported Fishery off the ground, but as the name suggests, I’m going to need a bit of help from all of you. please, Please, PLEASE help me spread the word! Like our new FB page! https://www.facebook.com/NhCommunitySeafood And visit our webiste at: www.nhcommunityseafood.com And don’t you worry, the Fishues will be starting back up once again in full force, and will be a key component to our NH Community Seafood’s CSF! Eat the fresh stuff and support your local fishermen!

It's gonna get Fishy!

It’s gonna get Fishy!

As ever, your support is most appreciated! LOVE to you ALL!!!

Caribbean Rondon Soup

Here on the island of San Andres, Colombia surrounded by the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, fish is an obvious staple food item and is prepared a number of ways, one of the most popular dishes being Rondon Soup.  Rondon is a traditional Caribbean dish that gets its name from the phrase, “Rundown,” as in, the cook of the home prepares a soup with whatever they were able to track down or forage that day, whether it was in the backyard, a neighbors coconut tree, or the bounty of the sea.  For this reason, there are many variations on the dish, there can be no wrongs.  Here’s the recipe for Rondon Soup as we prepared it this past Viernes (friday).

Across the street

Across the street

RONDON SOUP

First we boiled pig tails and feet in water for around an hour, over an open fire, to add some extra flavor to the soup.

Boiling Pork

Boiling Pork

Next Emildo cracked open 4 coconuts, which Peter then grated into a clean soup pan.  We added water and let soak for 10 minutes.  Soon following, the shredded coconut was sifted out and the extra juice pressed back into the pan.  Alas we had our coconut milk, which we put on the fire.

Emildo cracking coconuts

Emildo cracking coconuts

Peter shredding coconut

Peter shredding coconut

Blending the water and the coconut

Blending the water and the coconut

Coconut milk on the fire, and the pork left to cool

Coconut milk on the fire, and the pork left to cool

Once the coconut milk began to simmer, we added our vegetables, sliced yuca, peeled potato, plantains, and chiquitas (mini bananas), onions, garlic, and left the soup to boil.  We also added our poultry seasoning called Maggi.

Boiling vegetables

Boiling vegetables

Emildo then started to make the dumplings by kneading flour salt and pepper together.  He then rolled the dough into individual balls, and later flattened them in his hands and draped them over the top of the boiling soup.

Dumplings over top the soup

Dumplings over top the soup

Meanwhile Peter descaled the fresh fish, yellowtail and red snapper, and scored the the width of the body on both sides to help them cook more quickly.  (Notice we used WHOLE fish!!!)  We also had a piece of tuna and barracuda already filleted.

Red Snapper and Yellowtail

Red Snapper and Yellowtail

Peter descaling fish

Peter descaling fish

Tuna and Barracuda

Tuna and Barracuda

The fish was then added to the boiling pot along with the pork and some basil. It was left to finish cooking for around 30 minutes and served as is.  What a treat!  It was the most delicious fish stew I have ever had without a doubt!

Rondon Soup.  Salute!

Rondon Soup. Salute!

ENJOY!

DSC_1287

Sail, Sail Away

For those of you who don’t know, I will be sailing around the Caribbean the next couple of months.  Though I won’t always have internet access, or the ability to keep up-to-date with Fishues or my travels, you can follow my adventure via my travel blog at:  www.seavhtravels.wordpress.com

I’ll do my best to keep up with it, as well as to continue to search out new Fishues material.    For now I’ll be sailing around Panama in hopes of reaching Puerto Rico in the next couple of weeks.

DSC_0906

Be Well; wherever you may be.

Ciao!

Julie Ann II, Gloucester Harbor

Dennis Robillard

Fisherman: Dragger

Dennis Robillard, Dragger

Dennis Robillard, Dragger

Three months after working on the docks of the now closed, Portsmouth Fishermen’s Cooperative at Portsmouth Harbor offloading boats, Dennis accepted a job working as a deckhand gillnetting on a vessel out of Portsmouth Harbor.  His first day on the job the winds consistently blew 35 mph and he spent the entire day miserably bent over the side of the boat.  “After that I said I’d give it one more day,” Dennis continues matter-of-factly, “and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Pulling in the first tow

Pulling in the first tow

First catch of the day

First catch of the day

Sorting Fish

Sorting Fish

By 1995 Dennis Robillard had a fishing vessel of his own.  Since then Dennis has owned three different boats, and currently fishes off of his 2004, 44 foot Novi, Julie Ann II, built in Yarmouth, Maine.  Though he has a berth in Portsmouth Harbor, as of lately he’s been fishing out of Gloucester around 4-5 times a week, heading south with his deckhand of 2 years, Kevin, around 2 am each work day.  A brief stop at Dunkin Donuts enroute is a must for the two of them.  “I like fishing for the independence of it,” shares Dennis during the early morning commute.

Pulling in the tow

Pulling in the tow

Primarily Dennis targets cod and flounder, but he also catches dogfish, monkfish, lobster, skate, and scallops from time to time.  Every now and then he’ll pull in something out of the norm. The craziest thing Dennis claims to have ever caught was a 17th century vase, fully intact while gillnetting one day.

Since the market’s been decent at $6 a pound, they also have been taking the time to harvest the livers of monkfish, fulfilling the demand in the Asian market.   On an average day Dennis aims for 2 long tows generally 3-4 hours each around 15 miles offshore, but his catch sensor often suggests pulling the catch in earlier than anticipated.  For those who don’t remember from Lisa Ann II of Newburyport Harbor’s article posted previously, a catch sensor is a small capsule attached to the cod end of a trawl and electronically transmits a signal to the system onboard alerting the captain when the net appears to be full.  This way no additional fuel is wasted towing an already full net.  Not all draggers have them for various reasons such as the expense and the regular maintenance they can require, but they are becoming increasingly more common.  While onboard, the catch sensor suggested we pull in the second catch early, and for that reason we ended up doing a third tow, although shorter than the first.

Gutting Fish

Gutting Fish

Basket of Redfish

Basket of Redfish

All of Dennis Robillard’s catch is offloaded at the end of each day, typically sometime between 3 and 5 pm at the Boston Display Seafood Auction at Gloucester Harbor where it is processed and shipped to seafood auctions throughout New England.  When and if there’s a shrimp season he spends the entire season, shrimping.  He also spends some time in the spring, usually around May, fishing for squid off the coast of Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Dennis and Kevin Sorting

Dennis and Kevin Sorting

Measuring Fish

Measuring Fish

When asked what he’d like to share with New Hampshire seafood consumers, Dennis responds, “Be careful what you buy, because a lot of it is from overseas.”  He believes this is an important concept for the general public to understand, which in addition to  other reasons such as unreasonably low market prices, has led Dennis to help run a Community Supported Fishery, more commonly known as a CSF, based in Kittery, Maine.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, perhaps the mention of the acronym CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture may ring some bells.  The overarching idea being that individual families buy a share from a farmer, or in this case a fishermen, at a flat rate and for a period of time they receive weekly shares of the farmer’s harvest or the fishermen’s catch available for pick-up from a central location.  Though the actual consumer does not get much say in what types or varieties of harvest they will receive, with the right state of mind, that aspect of it can be considered half the fun.

By subjecting yourself to an ever-changing variety of foods, you are encouraged to expand your palate and perhaps try something new, but most importantly you are eating seasonally.  For example, in regards to participating in a CSF, rather than grilling out-of-season shrimp (most likely from the far south) for the 4th of July, perhaps you could be grilling some dogfish kebabs or maybe marinating a locally and sustainably caught cod fillet.

Boston Skyline

Boston Skyline

Filling out Government Vessel Trip Report

Filling out Government Vessel Trip Report

Eastern Point Lighthouse

Eastern Point Lighthouse

Dennis Robillard is the main supplier of fish for the Kittery Community Supported Fishery, organized by members within the Kittery Point Congregrational Church.  Dennis drives his catch, previously filleted at the Boston Display Seafood Auction in Gloucester, to the church in Kittery every Thursday where members are able to pick up their weekly share of fish.  Members can purchase a 1 or 2 lb. share lasting 8 weeks at a time.  This particular CSF is now in the midst of their second season with just over 45 members.   In the next year they’re hoping to expand to York and Portsmouth.  “I had read of Cape Ann Fresh Catch doing it, and thought it was a novel idea, and I knew I would get paid more for my fish,” comments Dennis.  By selling his fish directly to the public in the form of filets he’s able to get several more dollars per pound than he would if he sold the fish whole to auction.

Gloucester Harbor

Gloucester Harbor

Offloading at Boston Display Seafood Auction

Offloading at Boston Display Seafood Auction

When asked what a sustainable fishery means to him, he responds, “We have to harvest the fish correctly and fairly so there’s a future in fishing, not just for myself, but anyone else who wants to participate in the fishery, whether it’s on a boat, on the docks, in a market or whatever.”  By managing a CSF he is able to share his ideologies of a sustainable fishery with his members, and they in turn support the future of the fishery by eating not only locally, but seasonally.  From his daily catch, Dennis enjoys eating redfish and whiting most, and will never say no to a plate of fried clams.  His one and only hobby he claims is fishing, but strictly salt water, and he jokingly adds, “and making Kevin’s (his deckhand’s) life miserable.”  They both share a a quick laugh on the ride home.

Back to harbor with the setting sun

Back to harbor with the setting sun

Fueling up at the end of the day

Fueling up at the end of the day

Dennis lives in Eliot, Maine with his wife and his 2 kids who are currently attending Marshwood High School.  Learn more about the local CSF and how you could participate here.  

 

An Overdue Fishue

Shorter days, crisp cool air, pumpkins, and changing leaves.

Maine in October

Maine in October

As most New Englanders are fully aware, Autumn is officially upon us, and classes at UNH are in full swing, and as a result I’ve been neglecting my Fishues Blog.  Like every year, the the semester starts off slow, and I take it easy catching up with my friends, until I pause to look up, at which time all I can see is a Wildcat Transit Bus barreling towards me (figuratively of course), and within it, all the work I’ve been putting off for the first 3 weeks of classes: paperwork, lab reports, graduation forms, meetings, readings, first-round of exams. Perhaps I’m not the only one that knows the feeling. Then following is a week or two devoted to unburying myself from the wreckage to later surface for a breath of fresh air (imagine a whale breaching), where I reclaim my life, grudgingly taking stride alongside a familiar acquaintance, “Reality.”

But have no fear I have not been neglecting the seacoast’s fish issues.  Needless to say, there’s been a lot going on that’d I’d like to briefly share.

First and foremost, GREAT NEWS!

The NH commercial fishing industry has dodged yet another bullet. After a second meeting with John Bullard regarding the porpoise closure for NH gillnetters scheduled for October and November, they have made the ultimate decision to shift the closure to February and March, with the intent of minimizing the economic impact on the fishermen. It is now the second week of October and NH gillnetters have been able to continue doing what they love, without having to look for other jobs.

An October full of Sunrises

An October full of Sunrises

Read more about the change in the closure here.

Secondly, a FISHUES premiere film called BY/CATCH

For the past month and a half, I have been working with Brittany Debelis, a grad student studying film, to work on capturing an inside look at the fishing industry in NH with an emphasis on the missing link from boat to table and the overabundance of dogfish sharks.  To fulfill a school deadline, she just released as of yesterday this amazing short film, By/Catch, which you can watch below, however we have plans to continue filming with the hopes of expanding the film further down the line.  Regardless, Brittany has done an incredible job!  The film came out far better than I could have ever imagined.

Brittany Debelis

Brittany Debelis

Thanks for all your hard work Brittany, you should be proud.

Watch the film, By/Catchhere.

Thirdly, FISHTIVAL was a great success.

On September 22nd, we had the 4th Annual Fishtival: Fish and Lobster Festival at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH.  The event was a great success, with a wonderful attendance.  Sector Manager Josh Wiersma and I had a table where we featured each of the different fishermen I’ve interviewed and helped to promote the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative, one of the best places to buy local seafood in the area.  We also raffled off some large prints of photos from my blog which were so popular at the event that I’ve been considering starting an Etsy site where larger prints can be purchased.  More information about that to come.  I’d love any and all input on the matter…If you have any suggestions, please share.

Here are some pictures from the event:

Josh Wiersma at our Fishues table w/ daughter Alba

Josh Wiersma at our Fishues table w/ daughter Alba

Mike Anderson at the "Name that Fish" Table

Mike Anderson at the “Name that Fish” Table

Tuna head and tale

Tuna head and tale

Sea Grant employee, Ben Metcalf's FishSea Grant employee, Ben Metcalf's fishing gear demoing Gear Table

Sea Grant employee, Ben Metcalf’s fishing gear demo

Trawl Gear

Trawl Gear

Josh Wiersma speaking at Fishtival

Josh Wiersma speaking at Fishtival

Kyle of Yankee Coop in the dunk tank

Kyle of Yankee Coop in the dunk tank

And Lastly, Know the Coast Day, October 20th.  

Josh Wiersma and I will have a NH fishing sector table at the Coastal Marine Lab in Newcastle, NH from 10:00-3:00 for the UNH sponsored, Know the Coast Day, where we will be raffling off more of my photos.  Please stop by and say hello!

FISHTIVAL: Saturday, September 22nd!

So this week was a big week for FISHUES.

For those of you who don’t know, I had the honor of having an article published in UNH Today with my picture featured on the homepage, a wonderful cap to my 4.5 years at the University of New Hampshire.  Thank you to all you Fishues fans out there, as well as those who have supported me along the way.  Knowing wonderful people like you are reading inspire me to keep the fishues coming.

I am forever grateful.

UNH Homepage

UNH Homepage

If you’re interested my article along with a slideshow, it can be found in the UNH Today here.

First light of day

First light of day

But most importantly,

what makes this such a big week for Fishues is the fact that the 4th Annual FISHTIVAL is this SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 12-4 pm!  

“What’s Fishtival?” you may ask.

FISHTIVAL is a Fish and Lobster Festival held in Prescott Park overlooking Portsmouth Harbor on the Piscataqua River.

Fishtival: Essentially the best way to describe it is the fishermen’s version of Prom.  Therefore there will be many of the fishermen you have read about in Fishues (as well as others you have yet to read about).

Attending Fishtival, you will have the opportunity to step aboard some of the local fishing boats, taste fresh & local seafood prepared by numerous local restaurants, watch a cook-off between competing chefs, view demos on how to use various fishing gear, attend hands-on workshops on how to cook with a whole fish as well as how to fillet one, listen to live music, and learn all about your local fishing community from the experts themselves.

And bring the kids; there will be plenty of activities for them as well, including name that fish and touch tanks filled with the likely intertidal suspects.

Admission is free, so there’s really no good excuse not to come.

FISHTIVAL this Saturday Noon to 4 pm.  Be There!

And please stop by my Fishues table to say hello!  

Portsmouth Harbor

Portsmouth Harbor

Ellen Diane, Hampton Harbor

FISHERMAN:  David Goethel

New England Fisheries Council Member

David Goethel

David Goethel

“Both my sons have fished with me at one point or another.  And I’ll tell you, nothing clarifies the mind like picking small fish for the day, 10 miles offshore,” shares David in reference to his two sons’ decision to pursue a college education rather than entering into the fishing indsutry.  “I do it because I love it, but it’s not for everyone.”  David Goethel, who was born in Boston and raised in Needham, Massachusetts, has been working on the water since 1967, starting out as crew for party boats, which he would fish off of when he got the chance.  He later went to Boston University where he received a degree in biology with a focus on marine sciences.  David continued to work on boats throughout his time at school and later received his US Marine Officer license which led to him receiving his captains license later on.  In the winter of ’76 David worked part-time at the New England Aquarium where he met his wife, Ellen.  Though he was offered a full-time position in the Spring he decided to return to the party boat business, because he had felt too disconnected from the day’s natural rhythms working indoors.  David later moved north to New Hampshire and was soon able to pay off his college loans in their entirety working on the water.

First tow of the day

First tow of the day

In 1982 David Gothel had his 44 foot stern dragger built, Ellen Diane, by the John Williams Boat Company in Hall Quarry, Mount Desert, Maine.  “There’s only ever been one captain of this boat, and that’s me,” points out David proudly, drawing my attention to the delicate wood work throughout the cabin.  Never having operated his own fishing vessel before, he considered the time a great opportunity to enter the industry.  “Back then I had the luxury of being able to learn to become a fishermen, there were no regulations and you could fish as often as you wanted.” For that reason, he was able to pay off his custom boat in 3 years.  Today David fishes 7 days a week.  “If the fishery is open, I’m going,” he exclaims.  David tows 3-4 times a day for an hour and a half at a time about 8 miles offshore targeting silver hake, also known as whiting.  According to David the first tow of the day is always the best due to the vertical diurnal migration of silver hake, meaning they feed at night just above the bottom, but at the first sight of day they begin to migrate back to the ocean floor, at which time the trawl is most likely to sweep them up.  There have been various studies conducted on this unique behavior such as the one from the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences that can be read here.

On an average summer day, David hopes to haul in 3,000 pounds, but there have been days where he’s caught as much as 7,000 pounds and as little as 500 pounds.  Today he hopes the price of silver hake to be between $0.60-$0.80 a pound, but that’s not always the case, at times it has been significantly less.  Though David is a member of the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative, his hake is typically shipped straight to the cities where it is then sold around the world since there’s little to no market for them around here.  “They taste a lot like haddock or cod,” he says.  “They’re really good, just under-appreciated.”  David also fishes for tuna, cod and flounder at different times throughout the year.  “That’s why there’s always been a fishing fleet in New Hampshire,” he shares, “there’s fish to catch year-round.”  David takes pride in the knowledge he has gained as a fishermen and a naturalist over the years.  “People don’t know anything about the ocean bottom until you try to drag a net across it,” he claims.

Releasing the catch

Releasing the catch

Scattered amongst the whiting within David’s haul, there are also butter fish, mud hake, flounder, lobster, skate, squid.  Many of them are thrown over as bycatch and others are thrown in boxes to be sold as bait.  “These fish we’re selling as baitfish are great tasting fish,” he says picking them up to show me.  “It’s just that nobody wants them around here. If I think back, the things that are delicacies now…I used to throw those things over every day years ago: scallops, monkfish, lobster.  It wasn’t until chefs like Julia Child came along and changed all that.”  Like David, his wife Ellen is a strong believer in the power of education.  A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in biology, Ellen has since started her own traveling education program called Explore the Ocean World Now.  With the help of David, Ellen collects different organisms which she cares for in large aquariums set up in their garage.  Ellen takes these creatures to elementary schools throughout New Hampshire educating children about the ocean, sharing with them live organisms they may never have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.  Ellen visits about 80 different schools a year.

Throwing over bycatch: skate, flounder, lobster, etc.

Throwing over bycatch: skate, flounder, lobster, etc.

One tow's catch

One tow’s catch

David is known to be a passionate member of the local fishing community, placing great faith in the collaboration between scientists and fishermen, and has partnered with scientists and organizations on various occasions, conducting research on his boat throughout the work day.  An example of this being the tagging of yellowtail flounder, a program he initiated with his youngest son, Daniel, who has been working summers on the boat with his father since he was 14.  Daniel is now 28 and working on his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, with the relationship between the science center and the fishermen at the heart of his research.  Eric, David’s oldest son, went to Boston University for air and space engineering and is currently a tugboat captain in Boston.

Last tow of the day

Last tow of the day

In 2004, David Goethel was appointed the position of New England Fisheries Council Member by the secretary of commerce.  The duties of the council consist of writing the regulations for all fishermen in federal waters, 3 miles offshore and beyond, with 32 fisheries in total.  Duties as a council member consist of meeting every other month for 3 days at a time, for a total of 50 days of meetings a year, which are held at various locations throughout New England.  Each term is 3 years long, and one member is allowed a maximum of 3 terms.  David will be finishing up his 3rd term come next August.  “It’s a big undertaking,” he shares, “if you’re doing the job you’ve been appointed.”  As a council member you are expected to have a strong understanding of the biology behind stock management and are required to be up-to-date on all the stock assessments.  David views sustainable fisheries as a delicate relationship.  “We have to have sufficient numbers of both fish and fishermen,” he argues.  “We need some flexibility within management; right now it’s way too rigid.”  David brings up a quote said by John Bullard, the National Marine Fisheries new regional administrator, at the opening of the Portsmouth meeting on September 12th.  Bullard paralleled the declining number of right whales to the declining number of fishermen, stating that only 400 remained of the endangered whales, compared to the 400 fishermen that remain from North Carolina to Maine.  “I’ll tell you what,” says Goethel, “we’re dropping a lot quicker than the right whales.”  He fears present and past regulations are to blame.  “We tend to protect some animals at the expense of others.  When you protect one species and exclude everything else you damage the ecosystem.”  He describes the increase in harbor seals as a prime example of this, suggesting there’s so many these days, that they are damaging the local fish populations.

Picking all the fish out

Picking all the fish out

David fears for the future of the industry.  He believes that once a market for a species goes away, that that market can’t be regained, markets such as silver hake.  The market for silver hake dissolved sometime in the ’60’s and since then silver hake have been primarily shipped elsewhere.  David also believes it’s necessary to the success of the market as well as the stocks to have a diverse fleet.  “You need the big boats to bring in the volume and the small boats to bring in the quality for what I like to call table cloth restaurants, high quality establishments.  And the small boats provide fish to the seacoast every single day which help to keep the system going, maintaining the market.”  He pauses.  “Once you put an end to those day boats you destroy the infrastructure, and you can’t get it back.”  The October and November gillnetting closure lies at the heart of our conversation, for the effects of the closure are much greater than the already devastating loss of work for the fishermen.  With the closure fast approaching it’s hard to say the effect it will have on establishments such as the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative.  Currently there are about 15 people working there, and if there’s only 5 draggers for 2 whole months, they’re not going to need all those people working.  “You don’t need a fish coop if no one’s bringing in any fish,” suggests David.  “If Yankee goes away, it’s not coming back.”

Filling in the trip report

Filling in the trip report

When I ask David why it is he fishes, he responds, “I’m happier on the ocean than I am on the land.  I get to see the sun rise every day and most days I get to see it set too.  100 years ago I guess they would have called me a naturalist.  I get to see it all.”  After a near death experience involving a 20 foot fall onto a dock below 2 years prior to the day, for David, each day’s rising sun is a blessing. He looks out over the water from the helm, and looks out back to check on his deckhand.  He continues, “I’m not a specialist, but more of a generalist and because of it I have a greater understanding of the whole picture.  You have to understand your interactions to your surroundings and respond to them.”  He believes this idea the key to effective management.  David argues not all stocks can be at maximum sustainable yield.  “If something’s up, something’s got to be down, and management doesn’t account for that kind of thing and because of it we’re in a lot of trouble right now.  We have got to learn from our mistakes.”

Along for the ride

Along for the ride

 From David Goethel to NH seafood consumers:

“Broaden your horizons.  There’s a lot of great fish that are caught off the coast of New Hampshire that people haven’t ever tried.  They’re not even being sold in the stores, but that’s because no one’s asking for them.”

End of the Line for New England Gillnetters?

Approaching the first marker of the work day

Approaching the first marker of the work day

Wednesday at 4:00 p.m., John Bullard, the newly-hired regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) held a listening session open to the public at the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, NH inviting any and all to voice their comments and concerns with regards to the future of the local fishing industry.  However with the harbor porpoise Coastal Gulf of Maine Consequence Closure fast approaching, there was nothing but bad news for our local fishing community to discuss.

Just a few weeks ago, NOAA Fisheries Service, informed the seacoast’s fishing community of a closure to all gillnetters for the month of October and November, meaning no gillnet fisherman is allowed to fish from Portland, Maine all the way south to Massachusetts for 2 whole months. The closure has been set by NOAA due to what they have deemed as a lack of compliance from fishermen with regards to their harbor porpoise take reduction plan.  On rare occasions harbor porpoises, a cetacean within the dolphin and whale family, swim into the invisible sink gillnets becoming tangled, often being left to die due to their inability to surface for air.  So as a precaution, NOAA began requiring gillnetters to attach a device called a pinger to each net which gives out a high-pitched noise detectable by porpoises and other large mammals in order to deter them from becoming trapped in the nets, a technique that is proven to be 90% effective.  However, when these regulations were put into place there was little information provided to fishermen on how to operate the pingers to most effectively repel the porpoises.  It’s not always obvious whether a pinger is functioning because the sound is often undetectable by the human ear.  As a result this past year, the local gillnetting fleet was determined to be only 40% pinger compliant, hence the closure as punishment.  But how did management arrive at this number?  Therein lies the controversy.

What constitutes being compliant?  How many boats were observed?  How are fishermen supposed to be sure their pingers are properly working?  What about the 10% of the pingers that are proven to be ineffective?

Harbor porpoise in the distance

Harbor porpoise in the distance

Though there are many unknowns here, the fact of the matter is fishermen weren’t given the support they needed to be compliant with regulations.  As gillnetter Jay Driscoll of Rye Harbor pointed out at the meeting, administration has the money, the science, and the technology to fix this, the fishermen are not, and now they are left to pay the price, a price they are more than likely unable to afford.

Rather than fighting the harbor porpoise closure altogether, the National Seafood Coalition proposed an alternate closure in the Spring of 2013 for the months of February and March, a time when there are still plenty of harbor porpoises around and the economic impact would not be as drastic.  It was quickly rejected by NOAA Fisheries.

Not only will the fishermen be impacted, but the infrastructure of the system as a whole will take a hit, establishments such as the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative.  With this closure in place, there will be an estimated loss of 3 million dollars, both directly and indirectly, to our local communities, however our NH fishermen will be paying the ultimate price.  For the 20 or so gillnetters left in New Hampshire, October and November is when the they make approximately 40% of their profits due to the increase in fish present that time of year; the remainder of the year is spent working to cover the costs of operating a fishing vessel.

That being said, are porpoises really at the heart of this closure?

If in fact they’re really looking for a way to protect stocks and cut back on fishing, closing fishing to gillnetters is not the answer.  Removing one set of gear only makes room for other types of gear types to replace them.  There’s already talk circulating throughout the fleet of other boats foreign to our 30 square miles off the coast of New Hampshire, moving in with hopes of scooping up the excess, previously our local gillnetters profits.  Not to mention, these boats that will be invading our waters are boats that have rarely, if ever, fished here before.  They don’t know or care for these waters the way our local NH fishermen do, because they weren’t born and raised here, and their livelihoods don’t depend on these waters.

Regardless the seacoast’s gillnet fishermen have been left stunned.  Many fishermen have said that they hadn’t even caught a single porpoise within their nets all last year.  It’s hard to imagine being so harshly punished for something you haven’t done.

We’re talking about these people’s livelihoods:

Gillnetter Kurtis Lang

Gillnetter Kurtis Lang

Gillnetter Tommy Lyons

Gillnetter Tommy Lyons

Gillnetter Jay Driscoll

Gillnetter Jay Driscoll

Gillnetter Rick Anderson

Gillnetter Rick Anderson

Gillnetter Jamie Hayward

Gillnetter Jamie Hayward

Gillnetter Mike Kennon

Gillnetter Mike Kennon

As quoted by sector manager, Josh Wiersma, in the Union Leader:

“What is the objective of the agency? Is it to protect harbor porpoises or is it to maximize the punishment for the industry.”

People want to talk about the future of fishing;

well folks, the end of the line, just may be in sight.

Read more about Wednesday nights meeting in the Union Leader here

Fillet A Fish. How To.

Going grocery shopping?

Lately grocery shopping here in the United States has begun to look more and more like convenience store shopping. We as consumers are continually seeking out the quickest and easiest purchase possible, especially when it comes to our food: Individually wrapped to-go snacks, when we could just as easily pack food to-go ourselves.  Soups already in disposable microwaveable cups, just so there’s fewer dishes to wash later.  Blocks of cheese already sliced and individually wrapped. Plastic containers of garlic cloves already pealed and sealed.  Packs of vegetables plastic wrapped around a non-recyclable styrofoam plate.  I could go on forever, but I have a feeling you get the idea.

This week, I challenge you to go down a different avenue while making your food and beverage purchases; and I don’t necessarily mean a difficult route, but rather a different one.  Shopping for food to sustain your life should not be a chore, but rather a pleasure in which you indulge. Consider going to an actual pasta store, like Terra Cotta Pasta Company and ask for some fresh pasta packaged to order.

Farmer's Market Sunflowers

Wake Robin Farm Sunflowers

Or pay a visit to your local farmer’s market and buy something straight from the earth, like carrots with their green tops still present, packaged the way they actually grew, maybe even with some dirt still on them.

Farmer's Markets Carrot

Farmer’s Markets Carrot

Or try going to your local fish market, like Seaport Fish in Rye, rather than the your typical chain grocery store, and ask for a type of fish you haven’t tried before;  something other than cod, haddock, or salmon, after all those are not the only types of fish in the ocean.

Seaport Fish, Rye, NH

Seaport Fish, Rye, NH

 

Keep in mind when we diversify our diets, we’re diversifying the ocean.  And better yet, consider buying a whole fish if they have it.  Don’t worry, it’s more than likely already headed and gutted because that is typically done right on the boat for the freshest fillet.

What’s that you say?  

You don’t know how to fillet a fish?

Allow me to show you how with this Haddock caught while aboard Sweet Misery:

STEP 1

First cut just behind the gill

First cut just behind the gill

From the midline to the top of the fish

From the midline to the top of the fish

STEP 2

Cut from the head towards the tail running the knife along the spine

Cut from the head towards the tail running the knife along the spine

Slice all the way to the tail

Slice all the way to the tail

STEP 3

Insert the knife further down peeling back the fillet

Insert the knife further down peeling back the fillet

Work the fillet off the spine all the way to the tail

Work the fillet off the spine all the way to the tail

STEP 4

Keep working the knife down towards the belly of the fish

Keep working the knife down towards the belly of the fish

STEP 5

Cut the fillet away from the fish

Cut the fillet away from the fish

Continue all the way to the tail

Continue all the way to the tail

One fillet down, one more to go

One fillet down, one more to go

STEP 6:  Repeat Steps 1-5 for the other half of the fish

STEP 7:  Peeling the skin from the fillet

Start at the tail end of the fillet and work your way down

Start at the tail end of the fillet and work your way down

Slide the knife along between the skin and the fillet

Slide the knife along between the skin and the fillet

And you're FINISHED!

And you’re FINISHED!

It’s that easy!

Now keep in mind, not all fish are filleted the same, but in the case of finfish such as this haddock, the method shown above should work.  And if you’re worried about making a mess of your kitchen, consider doing it outside.  Feeling unsure of what to do still? Don’t be afraid to ask your local fish market for advice; I’m sure they would be more than happy to show you.

All in a day's work

All in a day’s work

It’s time that we as citizens of the seacoast start taking responsibility for our actions as consumers, especially when it comes to our food, and that may mean going the extra step to make it happen.  Next time you’re given the opportunity to take home a whole fish for dinner, take matters into your own hands and give filleting a try.  It’s a lot simpler than people realize and with a good sharp knife and a little bit of practice, anyone can breakdown a fish just in time for dinner.