Elizabeth Ann, Portsmouth Harbor

PETER KENDALL, “PK”

Fisherman:  Dragger

NE Council Member

Northern Shrimp Advisory Panel 

Peter Kendall aboard Elizabeth Ann

Peter Kendall aboard Elizabeth Ann

“I started fishing because of the lure of it.  I just wanted to be out on the water and make money, back when it was good, and it has been good up until a few years ago,” shares fisherman, Peter Kendall of Rye, New Hampshire where he lives with his wife and 2 kids.  Peter fishes for groundfish off of his 50 foot stern dragger, one of five, uniquely molded from an old school bus in 1976 in South Carolina.  Peter has been fishing for 15 years now, and had worked 10 years on the docks at Portsmouth Harbor before that, previously managing Portsmouth Fishermen Cooperative before it was closed down.  Like most fishermen, making the most of his permits and the seasons, Peter targets different fisheries depending on the time of year.  Currently he is targeting cod, but is considering switching over to dragging for herring in the coming weeks, followed by shrimping in the winter.  He mentions he used to spend part of the year scalloping, but over time was squeezed out of the fishery.

When fishing for groundfish, a typical day consists of one long tow from anywhere from 5 to 7 hours and then sorting and gutting fish while heading back to shore.  Typically Peter operates on his own, but today there was an observer onboard.  More often than not, fishermen prefer not to have an observer, an employee of the government, onboard to note fishing practices as well as landings, bycatch, and safety equipment present, to be reported back to the government, an alternate form of fishery  management.  Observers are assigned randomly to fishing vessels daily and often the fishermen don’t know they will be joining them until the day before.  This form of management is generally disliked by local NH fishermen; the idea of having a complete stranger onboard can feel like an invasion of privacy for most, being watched all day as you work to make a living.  However in the case of fishing with Peter Kendall that day, having an observer onboard did him a favor rather than a diservice.  Rather than having a standard estimate of bycatch calculated by the government subtracted from his annual catch quota, he was able to have his true amount of bycatch noted by the observer, a minute total of 6 pounds of discarded fish.  Such a small amount of bycatch just goes to show that Peter is accurately targeting his desired catch, groundfish, while species of little to no value to him were left in the water.  His catch of the day consisted of squid, pollock, cod, flounder and monkfish, the majority of which were all within the legal size.

Pulling in the catch

Pulling in the catch

Pulling in the catch

Pulling in the catch

“I’m not really liking it any more,” shares Peter Kendall with regards to his fishing career.  “It’s been frustrating.  The draw isn’t there anymore because it’s just not enjoyable. The government’s taken all the fun out of it. And it’s the first year that I’ve finally said that.”  Peter Kendall graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Resource Economics, and had started a swimming pool business of his own while in school.  When he graduated he struggled with the decision to grow his business or to go into the fishing industry.  With regards to his decision he declares, “Damn it.  I chose the wrong one.”

Nearing the cod end

Nearing the cod end of the net

Releasing the catch

Releasing the catch

Peter claims he fishes when it’s good, and that he didn’t fish all of April and May this year for that reason.  He struggles to comment on what a good day fishing looks like these days, sharing that 2 years ago during the days at sea program, when he fished out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, that he would catch a few thousand pounds of fish a day just so he could catch his quota quick, but that with the new system in place, things have changed.  “It’s hard to say.  I used to want to make $1,000 a day, but now you need more than that.  Now I don’t even know what makes a good day fishing.”  He continues, “People just don’t even realize what we have to go through to go fishing each day. It’s so redundant and unnecessary. We have to send an email each morning to let them know what we’re doing each day, and they’re tracking our boat every second of every day with a skymate box; they know where we are at all times.  And on top of that, I  have to give 48 hours notice as to when I’m going to be going fishing.”

Catch of the day (notice no dogfish)

Catch of the day (notice no dogfish)

Sorting fish

Sorting fish

As a New England Fisheries Management Council member, Peter shares that he’s privy to a lot of what is going to be happening within the industry in the future, stating, “It’s not pretty, I’ll tell you that much.”  Peter mentions a NH sector meeting happening later that night with the board of directors and some members from the nature conservancy.  There’s been talk circulating about partnering with them and the possibility of the nature conservancy buying some of the fishermen’s permits.  “If the price is right they might be buying some of my permits,” he suggests.  But this idea seems to be the least of their problems.  There has also been talk of management cutting the cod quota for next year 70-80%, cod being a fishery that the majority of local fishermen rely heavily on to make their money, with cod selling for 4-5 dollars a pound at market currently. With these kinds of cuts, many fishermen are at stake of losing their jobs, or perhaps becoming part-time fishermen; either way they will be forced to look for other work.

Gutting Cod

Gutting Cod

When asked about sustainable fisheries, Peter responds, “As a council member, it has a little bit of a different meaning.  Overall, it’s all about maintaining a robust stock, but it’s just that sometimes the science we go by is so sad.  My livelihood as a fisherman isn’t going to be sustained much longer.”  All of Peter Kendall’s catch is distribued under Jamie Hayward’s dealers license and is offloaded at Portsmouth Harbor, and trucked to different fish markets and auctions around the seacoast by Joe, an employee of Jamie’s.  Peter shares that he doesn’t eat as much seafood at home as one would think because of the hassle of having to report all fish brought home for dinner, but admits he tries to bring lobster and shrimp home for his two kids as much as possible because they love it.  Peter’s hobbies consist of anything related to sports, specifically golfing and going to his children’s sporting events, soccer, football, baseball, etc.

Birds after the fish guts

Birds after the fish guts

From Peter Kendall to New Hampshire seafood consumers:

“Eat as much local cod as you can.  You can find it at the local markets, but I’m sorry that I can’t personally sell it to anybody, including restaurants because I don’t have my dealer’s license.”

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4 thoughts on “Elizabeth Ann, Portsmouth Harbor

  1. Great blog, a running theme with most of the fisherman seems to be the “observers”. It would be intresting to see a blog on what the “observers” point of view would be. Keep up the good work.

  2. That would be very interesting. I know I’d read it. But I also know for a fact that by contract the observers aren’t allowed to discuss anything about their job or take any pictures. However an uncensored observers blog that would end up getting them fired would be extra interesting.

    • Thanks so much for reading. This is my first blog I ever did which started out as an independent research project my senior year of college. I really enjoy posting articles though and it’s always great to hear other people are enjoying them too. I’m ashamed at how long it has been since I’ve posted anything though. It’s currently on my to-do list for the week, so stay tuned. New Fishue to come soon…

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