Lobsterman & Founder of Portsmouth Lobster Company
“Over time, we’ve done such a good job with our resource, that there are tons of lobsters, both big and small,” claims lobsterman, Damon Frampton aboard his 42 foot boat, a Main Way, named Vivian Mae after his youngest of 4 daughters. Married to his wife Therese for 25 years, Damon’s family comes first. A certified diver, at 18, Damon went to school in Houston, Texas for underwater welding demolition, but quickly gave it up deciding it was not worth the danger for such little pay. He returned to what he knew: lobsters. Born and raised in Newcastle, Damon has been lobstering 19 years on his own now, and 25 years before that. Year-round, Damon pulls around 350 of his 1,200 traps five days a week throughout the New Hampshire waters. For Damon a satisfying day’s catch consists of 500-600 lbs. lobster, and when asked what a good day lobstering looks like he states, “Every day’s a good day when you’re on the water.” Other than lobstering, his hobbies consist of road biking and camping at his family’s site in Ossipee, NH, as well as helping to promote the NH Fresh and Local Seafood label the best he can.
Within the local fishing community, Damon Frampton is considered an activist, continually working to innovate and improve the way the local seacoasts’ catch is utilized. With these values in mind, in 2009, Damon, a licensed seafood dealer began his own lobster pound, Portsmouth Lobster Company, with the success of the local lobstermen at heart. With more lobsters being landed than ever before, profits and revenues continued to decline within the industry. Damon soon decided to begin his own business to help better the NH seacoast’s lobster market, diving head first into the field of distributing and processing, territory previously unfamiliar to him. Summer of 2011 was the birth of his ingenuity. An increase in the undesirable one-clawed lobsters known as culls began to bring down the price of lobstermen’s catch. In search of a way to add value to these undervalued specimens, the lobster ravioli was born partnered with Dover, New Hampshire’s Terra Cotta Pasta Company. Damon’s lobster company successfully began producing these tasty ravioli, distributing them throughout the region to places such as local markets and stores, like Seaport Fish of Rye and Whole Foods, as well as several local restaurants such as the group of locally owned restaurants, The Common Man. Though the Portsmouth Lobster Pound itself has since closed due to economics and a lack of time to run it, Damon continues to produce his lobster ravioli as well as scallop ravioli, scallops being his favorite kind of seafood to eat. His products can be found at markets throughout the surrounding area.
“I lobster because it’s all I’ve ever done,” says Damon, but he fears for the future of lobstering. Market prices have reached a record low fetching as little as $2.50 throughout New England, making it difficult for lobstermen to afford high fuel costs as well as bait costs. In relation to the prices Damon states, “Lobster is not a treat these days; it’s available and ready for anyone who wants it.” He argues lobstering is not always fair. While lobstermen get paid so little per pound of lobster, restaurants are still able to turn around and sell a tail of lobster alone, for around $9 if not more. To Damon, a sustainable fisheries means a self-sustaining, self-regulated fishery. “There has to be enough for everybody, and there is,” he says in reference to the lobster populations. To New Hampshire seafood consumers, “Support your local fishermen. But how? I’m not always sure.” For now Damon holds on to his next big idea, a high quality fish stick made with Pollock and other under-utilized fish that would otherwise go to waste. Until the opportunity presents itself, he teases, “Just you wait.” A smile spreads across his face.