Sector Manager of NH Groundfish Sectors,
Northeast Fisheries Sectors XI and XII
“I work for fishermen to make them more money and deal with the government on their behalf,” responds Josh Wiersma after much thought when asked if he could briefly describe what it is he does as sector manager. This is Josh’s 3rd year as sector manager and he has been working since the start of sectors as a whole, a concept which he had helped establish. Josh did his undergrad at the University of Maine studying environmental policy and management and then began grad school at the University of New Hampshire studying the fishing industry under advisor, Rob Robertson. While at UNH, he received funding to study the idea of collaborative research between fishermen and scientists, the overarching idea being that scientists would conduct research on fishermen’s boats, integrating the two fields with the hopes of finding a way that the two could benefit from each other. Josh later began a PhD program for environmental and natural resource economics at the University of Rhode Island.
Josh later went on to receive additional funding for his research through the nation-wide program, Sea Grant, to extend the work he had done previously at the University of New Hampshire, studying the benefits of collaborative research between fishermen and scientists. At the heart of his research was the quest to determine what wold be the total value to New England fisheries, and through doing so Josh slowly became increasingly engrossed with the fishing industry as a whole. It wasn’t long before Massachusetts’ Fishermen’s Partnership began funding his work in addition to his previous funding. By means of conducting his various field studies, over time, Josh was introduced to all of the fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts at the time.
Josh soon began working with the Northeast Seafood Coalition, an organization established to better represent fishermen as a whole, throughout New England. The overall goal of the coalition at the time being to organize 12 of the 17 sector groups, transitioning them from a system of cut-throat fishing, to a system where they all worked as part of the same organization with a common goal in mind, preserving the future of fishing throughout New England. From that point on, the idea of sectors began to take off, and currently all of New England’s fishermen are grouped into sectors with a manager assigned to each sector for an increased level of organization. Josh was assigned as manager of Northeast Fisheries Sectors XI and XII.
Originally from Maine, Josh currently lives in Dracut, Massachusetts with his wife, a chemical engineer, and his 14 month-old baby girl, Alba. His hobbies consist of playing ice hockey twice a week, as well as oil painting, and biking. Having worked all throughout the seacoast’s fishing industry the past couple of years, Josh claims to have met over half of all of the commercial fishermen in New England. “Not only do I get to work with them,” shares Josh, “but I consider them all my really good friends, and I’m certain they’ll be loyal friends of mine until the day their boat sinks.”
Having helped design the sector program himself, he takes a lot of pride in the work that he does. Working from his office at Portsmouth Harbor, Josh shares his tasks as as sector manager to consist of managing the quota they’ve been allocated as a sector, acting as a sort of broker in a way, buying and selling the rights to catch fish on the fishermen’s behalf. This concept is known as the Annual Catch Entitlement, or ACE. It is also Josh’s responsibility to report his sectors’ weekly total catch to the government, in addition to participating in various research projects, managing the sectors’ finances, as well as enforcing the rules of the sector.
Josh strongly believes in an ecosystem-based management program. When asked about sustainable fisheries, he responds, “As the ocean changes so do the fishermen, as the fishermen change, so does the ocean. To me you can’t separate the two. You have to maintain a diverse fleet. That’s what I’d like to see sustained.” Josh feels that the sustainability of our local fish stock is no different than supporting your small, local farms. He suggests if we don’t support our local farms, then all small-scale farms will be consolidated and we’ll be left with nothing but industrial agriculture, where only a handful of different kinds of vegetables will be grown, and no other options will exist. “It’s the same way with fishing,” he exclaims passionately. “There’s a direct relationship between the viability of the smaller, family-run fishing businesses we have here in New Hampshire, as well as the sustainability of the fish stocks, and the overall health of the ecosystem.” He argues that if the diverse fishing fleet we have left on our seacoast today, is forced to consolidate and sell to one large superpower, then they’re not going to care about what they’re catching because they’re livelihoods won’t depend on it; they won’t depend on it the way our local fishermen depend on it.
From Sector Manager, Josh Wiersma, to NH Seafood Consumers:
Support your local fishermen, but not necessarily always by buying local. Question where your seafood comes from at restaurants and markets. Demand local fish.