“In the old days you’d come out, work hard, and make money; but in the old days there weren’t any restrictions,” reflects fisherman Rick Anderson a resident of the same house in Rye, New Hampshire for the past 40 years. When Rick’s father was first stationed in the seacoast area, Rick was 9 years old. He spent the remainder of his childhood living in Dover, New Hampshire and as a young adult found work lobstering with a guy down in Gloucester, Massachusetts where he commuted from his Dover home. It wasn’t long before Rick had a few traps of his own, and at age 23 had saved up enough money to have his own boat built. “Boats were cheap back then; only $10,000 for a boat,” shares Rick. 4 years later, in 1972 Rick switched over to gillnetting, and in 1983 to dragging, and in 1992 back to gillnetting and has been doing it ever since.
Fishing being the only thing Rick’s ever done for work, today he fishes off of a 1997, 44 foot Novi he had built for himself by McGray Boatbuilders, in Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. “I fish because I enjoy it. It’s a good way to make a living, doing what you enjoy,” proudly shares Rick. Bridget Leigh leaves Rye Harbor at 3:00 am 7 days a week, heading 18 to 25 miles offshore, depending on where they set their strings the day before. Rick describes a good day fishing to be when they are able to make a bit of money for the day, with the aim of catching around a thousand pounds of groundfish and a couple thousand pounds of dogfish shark, which can fluctuate. To maintain his fishing operation as a whole he needs to pull in a total of 1,500-2,000 pounds a day. At the end of each work day, his catch is offloaded at Rye Harbor, and shipped to the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Rick and his wife, an elementary school aid, spend their winters, November through February at their home in Marathon Keys, where Rick spends his time fishing recreationally, as well as tending to his extensive flower gardens.
“At least 90% of us out here, believe in sustainability,” shares Rick, speaking for his fellow fishing community. “We’re not here to assault the ocean, we’d put ourselves out of business that way.” Rick feels that the rules and regulations currently set by the government are more than sustainable and fears scientists haven’t considered the possibility that fish may come in cycles. Like most NH fishermen, he’s frustrated with the increase in the amount of dogfish he’s seen the past few years. “We can’t have a bunch of dogs running around,” he says in defense of the more valuable fish they feast upon. “We fish within the regulations, whether we like it or not,” shares Rick. “We’re just trying to make a living and enjoy ourselves, but the government’s done everything backwards.” He pauses to reflect. “The worst of it is they’re persecuting fishermen like they’ve been thieves forever.”
Having been in the industry for so long, Rick doesn’t understand how anyone new could ever get started. “There’s no way anyone can get into this business anymore. It’s just not feasible; with this quota system, there’s no way you can get any [quota] because it’s already given out. Everything costs more these days.” Because no new blood is able to join the fleet, on top of the ever increasing amount of government regulations, Rick fears for the future of the fishing industry. 5 years down the road, he predicts the local fishing industry will be controlled by a few good boats, with only 1/3 of the entire New England fleet remaining. He fears it won’t be long before the fishing will be left to about 100 boats for all of New England’s coast, with only 2 or 3 boats in NH, forced to fish part time, compared to the approximate 40 groundfishermen within the granite state. It’s a grim future, to say the least. “These days, people just don’t stand a chance; they really don’t.”
From Fisherman, Rick Anderson to NH seafood consumers:
“Buy Local. We got fish. It’s all fresh and it’s well taken care of. All we have is fish of the day, the best kind, and it hasn’t been sitting on a boat for a week.”