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

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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.

Josh Wiersma, Sector Manager

Josh Wiersma at Portsmouth Harbor

Josh Wiersma at Portsmouth Harbor

Josh Wiersma

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.

East Coast Sunset

East Coast Sunset

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.

Portsmouth Harbor

Portsmouth Harbor

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.

 

 

Rimrack, Rye Harbor

Rimrack in Rye Harbor

Rimrack in Rye Harbor

Mike Anderson

Fisherman: Dragger

Mike Anderson serving up a raw scallop

Mike Anderson serving up a raw scallop

“I go by, the nice guy from Rye.”  Meet Mike Anderson, the younger brother of fisherman Rick Anderson, a dragger who has been fishing ever since he got out of high school.  Mike shares stories of his old man being a crafty guy who would piece together old parts from the marina to build boats among various other projects.  Mike and his two older brothers, grew up on a river in Dover, New Hampshire where Mike and his brothers would spend their days designing traps to catch lobsters out front of their house.  After graduating high school, Mike worked full-time fishing, first dragging, then gillnetting, only to go back to dragging.  He later went on to study to be a gym teacher at the University of New Hampshire, and soon following got a job as a gym teacher at Portsmouth High School working alongside fisherman, Tom Lyons, who taught science at the time.  5 years down the road he decided to return to fishing full-time for economic reasons.  Today Mike typically fishes 7 days a week off of his 51 foot, Novi stern dragger built in Nova Scotia in 2003.  “I usually fish for groundfish; anything with eyeballs really,” he jokes as we come up on the last 30 minutes of the first tow of the day.

Bird's Eye View

Bird’s Eye View

First Catch of the Day

First Catch of the Day

When I ask Mike what makes a good day fishing, he responds, “When the sun comes up and goes down I guess.”   The average fishermen is known to work 75-90 hour work weeks.  Mike fears that fishing is not anything like what it used to be.  “It’s nice being out on the water because you can escape all the people, but now the government’s following us out here.”  His cell phone begins to ring.  “Ahhh…hold on the government’s calling, ‘Good Afternoon.'”  He answers the phone with a cheerful grin.  Nothing but jokes aboard Rimrack with Mike Anderson.  His phone conversation comes to a close and he continues.  “All these people are chasing us around like parasites and putting us out of work, but in the long run, they’re going to be putting themselves out of work.”  Mike shares talk of a potential mandate starting May 1st that would require the fishermen to pay the randomly assigned onboard observers, rather than the taxpayers who are currently paying them. “If they cut our cod quotas by 70%, there’s no way we’re going to be paying them and ourselves,” vents Mike.   “We’re all going to be out of a job.”  He pauses, acknowledging my grimace. “I’m not an optimist, I’m a realist.”

Before releasing the net

Before releasing the net

Sorting Fish

Sorting Fish

Preparing the net

Preparing the net

Mike spends a short period of time making the most of the shrimp season each winter putting in 14 hour days every single day of the open season.  He describes last year’s shrimp season to be a short 19 day-long season, commenting on the fact that the shrimp fishery has not been doing so well, and there’s a possibility the season may be even shorter this upcoming year.  “I love when I get back to the dock and the people are lined up to buy our shrimp in the winter time,” he shares.  Mike also speaks fondly of his adventures fishing for squid out of Hyannis, Cape Cod with a few friends aboard Rimrack, where they live off the boat for the entire month of May.  All their catch off the coast of Hyannis is shipped to China for processing and then back to the United States to be sold.  When asked about sustainable fisheries, Mike believes there’s a certain level of responsibility involved by each individual fisherman in order to maintain a steady harvest.  “Don’t catch them all this year, so there aren’t any left for next year. It’s common sense.”  However he also believes there’s a certain level of competition that comes with the territory of fishing.  “Whether you say you’re competitive or not, we’re all competing with each other; we’re all fishing out of the same body of water.”

Aerial View of Pulling in the Net

Aerial View of Pulling in the Net

Pulling in the Net

Pulling in the Net

Beautiful Cod!  They still exist

Beautiful Cod! They still exist

Fishing with Mike that day we hit the cod jack pot on the first tow, with mostly cod in the net after nearly 4 hours of towing.  There were very few other kinds of fish mixed in and not a single dogfish shark, despite the dogfish mayhem being reported on the radio by the surrounding fishermen.  “I just feel so bad for those gillnetters this year. They’re working themselves to death, pulling in all those sharks and they’re not even making any money,” says Mike in response to the ongoing dogfish complaints.  The second and third tow, though successful pulled in a greater variety of fish, with fewer cod.  Mixed in with some really beautiful cod were squid, monkfish, torpedo rays, skate, whiting, flounder, lumpfish, red fish, crab, and lobster to name a few.  Like many of NH fishermen, Mike’s catch is picked up by the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative at Rye Harbor and distributed around the seacoast from there, or sold in Yankee Coop’s new fresh market that has just recently opened at the coop itself.

Boxing up the Fish

Boxing up the Fish

Mike Anderson is married to his wife, Padi Anderson, founder of Granite State Fish and has 2 grown daughters who spend much of their time traveling around the world.  Mike occasionally visits his older brother Rick at his winter home in the keys, joking about their time spent recreational fishing.  “Rick goes half way to Cuba and back on a 20 foot boot,” he says.  When asked about his hobbies, he says that he loves to do anything in the woods: hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and that he prefers to do it all in the great state of Maine, claiming there’s no need to go anywhere else.  He pulls out a full book atlas of Maine, and begins flipping through the pages showing me all his favorite spots.  Pages and pages of the book, are highlighted, noted, and marked with dates, in order to help himself track where he’s been over time.  “I’ve been all over the state, camping out of the back of my truck; west of 95 where no one goes,” he states with a sense of pride for his time spent throughout the state.

Mike prepared lobster for breakfast

Mike prepared lobster for breakfast

20+ lb. Lobster.  We didn't eat him

20+ lb. Lobster. We didn’t eat him

I ask him where he sees the local fishing industry 5 years from now, and he immediately responds, “You’re predicting 4 years past the end of the fishing world.  You realize that?”  He pauses.  “There’s no way of saying what 5 years down the line is going to look like.”  We continue discussing the issues with the future of fishing and he interjects, “I can fish in the woods just as much as I can fish here, and have just as much fun.”  I ask him what the craziest thing he ever caught was and he responds, someone’s license, but even better, the same person’s wallet was caught the following day.  “That was something,” he exclaims.  When asked why he still fishes, he responds, “To feed hungry people I guess, and it’s fun.”  He emphasizes the fact that complete strangers are always welcome aboard his boat, either to take a look around, or join him for a day of fishing.

And I exclaim, “Strangers like me.”

He quickly retorts, “Oh, but I’ve heard about you.” And he lets out a laugh.  “You’re no stranger around here.”  We exchange smiles, and I continue.

“If you could share anything with NH seafood consumers what would it be?”

He thinks a moment, and responds in all seriousness, “Come on down to the harbor and see what’s going on. We let anyone come on down during shrimp season and check everything out.  And go to Fishtival on September 22nd!”

Mike operating the machinery

Mike operating the machinery

Scoping out the catch

Scoping out the catch

Last tow of the day

Last tow of the day

Bridget Leigh, Rye Harbor, NH

Bridget Leigh in Rye Harbor

Bridget Leigh in Rye Harbor

Rick Anderson

Fisherman: Gillnetter

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

“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.

Working with the rising sun

Working with the rising sun

Porbeagle Shark dead in the net.  It happens.

Porbeagle Shark dead in the net. It happens.

End of the line

End of the line

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.

Working the Line

Working the Line

“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.”

Picking Dogfish

Picking Dogfish

Rick picking a dogfish

Rick picking a dogfish

Sorting Fish

Sorting Fish

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.”

About to pull in the last string

About to pull in the last string

Resetting the net using a "Flaker"

Resetting the net using a “Flaker”

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.”

Buy Rick's Catch at Yankee's Market in Seabrook

Buy Rick’s Catch at Yankee’s Market in Seabrook

 

Rolling Stone, Badgers Island, Kittery, ME

Rolling Stone out to Sea

Rolling Stone out to Sea

Mike “Munsey” Kennon

Fisherman: Gillnetter

Munsey

Munsey

“It’s going to be a lot of work to survive, but I want to make it,” shares Mike Kennon, more commonly known within the fishing community as Munsey, in fact I didn’t even know his real name until I had asked.  Munsey, a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy continues, “I could be an engineer right now, and have benefits and steady pay, but I love fishing.  This is what I do, and I love it.  It’s more of a way of life than anything.”  He pauses, and trails off, “But it’s hard to live this life…”

Munsey has been fishing on and off his entire life starting out at the age of 6 helping his father who had began lobstering at the age of 14,  before later joining the army, only to return to fishing, both dragging and gillnetting.  His brother had also fished up until recently when the increase in government mandates drove him out of the business.  While at school, Munsey lobstered out of Boothbay and worked on tugboats out of Bath, Maine.  After graduating from Maine Maritime with a degree in Marine Engineering, Munsey began working as a deckhand for Jamie Hayward.  “If you don’t mind working, you make money with Jamie,” he says.  9 years later Jamie acquired another boat and promoted Munsey to captain of Rolling Stone, a 44 foot Novi built in 1999.

The beginning of a set of strings

The beginning of a set of strings

No Fish

No Fish

The catch of the day on Rolling Stone was less than ideal that day, and I apologized for the lack of fish, or even dogfish for that matter, because at the end of the day even a couple thousand pounds of dogfish shark are better than nothing.

“Is it the worse you’ve ever seen?” I asked.

“As a captain, yes, as a crew member on a boat, no. You just never know.”

At the helm

At the helm

Munsey describes a good day fishing to consist of 5,000 pounds of groundfish, preferably pollock, and 1,000 lbs of dogs.  “That would be a ‘F*** yeah!’ day for me,” he says.  “I would love a day like that.”  But in reality, it was not that kind of day, with the first string of nets only pulling in a couple hundred pounds of dogfish and a few groundfish, and the last 2 strings pulling in around 10 dogfish and under 7 marketable fish.  However, according to the word on the radio, Munsey wasn’t the only fisherman left to wonder where the fish were that day.  When I ask what it takes to be able to catch fish he responds, “Accommodation and determination, and the brains to be able to do it.  That’s what it takes.”

Where the fish at?

Where the fish at?

Some of the richest fishing in the North Atlantic occurs around Jeffrey’s Ledge, a 33 mile-long glacial deposit, where it’s shallower edges border much deeper waters creating nutrient upwellings conducive to a productive marine habitat and for that reason is closed off to fishing to provide high-demand species a safe haven of sorts.  Munsey states that 90% of the herring in the world come and spawn at Jeffrey’s Ledge.  Munsey and his crew, Jerry and Steve, leave at 3 am 7 days a week, for the 3 hour trek to fish just west of Jeffrey’s, approximately 25 miles offshore.  In the words of Munsey’s brother, in reference to Jeffrey’s Ledge, “You work the edges the best you can and you scrape.”  Rolling Stone’s catch is offloaded at Portsmouth Harbor where Joe, Jamie’s truck driver, is there to receive it.  From there it is shipped to Seaport Fish Market or the Portland Fish Exchange for auction.

In reference to fishery management Munsey claims, “I tried to work with them from the start and then they started taking everything over. They don’t want to work with us.  If they don’t stop making rules based on nonsense, then we’re dead.”  Munsey shares that though he’s not using his college degree at this moment in time, he’s glad he has it to fall back on.  “I’m glad I went to school, because if this all goes to hell, I’m going to be okay, because I can still have a career.”  He worries for other fishermen who aren’t so lucky, and for people like his crew member Steve.  “I feel for the guy, it’s the only thing he’s ever done. He doesn’t know any different.”

Steve coiling the line

Steve coiling the line

Munsey, a resident of Somersworth, New Hampshire, is thankful for his wife, and the mother of his 2 children, a 2 year-old and a 3 month-old, for understanding and respecting the demands of his career.  “I’m gone a lot of the time, but I’m working,” he says.  For the past 6 years now, Munsey has been working October through March on a crabbing vessel, Southern Wind, out of Seattle, Washington, with 6 other people onboard.  They leave for week-long trips each time, fishing for Trident Seafoods, one of the biggest seafood companies on the northwest coast.

Jerry

Jerry

Munsey

Munsey

I ask him about sustainable fisheries and how it affects him.  He responds, “Every aspect of the term affects me. If you can’t sustain the fish than you can’t sustain the fishermen. We’re willing to work with management, they just don’t want to work with us. They have all this data, but they don’t want to use it.”  We come out of the fog, and the shore becomes visible once again.  The waters around us are speckled with tuna fishermen waiting patiently for the flash of a fin, making it difficult for Munsey to decide where to set his last string.  A crossing of fishing methods can often lead to conflicts, both small and large.  He continues, “If the government refuses to work with us, they’re going to kill us.  If they don’t open some of the closed [fishing] areas and make some good rules for us to fish by…” He pauses for a moment.  “Game over, I guess.”  When I ask him if he could share anything with NH seafood consumers what would it be, he responds:  “Buy local, plain and simple. Support your local fishermen; that’s what it’s all about.”

Slightly Cloudy with a Chance of Dogs

Too many dogfish

Too many dogfish

Having fished on over 14 commercial fishing vessels at the peak of Dogfish Shark Season throughout the past month and a half, it’s become clear that there seems to be a serious fishue with regards to one of the most dreaded creatures by New Hampshire fishermen.  Having been previously on the endangered species list, dogfish shark was overprotected by management throughout the past decade, mainly due to the fact that we know so little about the species as a whole.  It’s unclear at what age dogfish sexually mature, or how long they live, where they spawn, and where they migrate to and from.  So over time, though we were able to remove the species from the endangered species list, we have contributed to an infestation of dogs throughout our coastal waters, and for NH fishermen it has become a bit of a headache to say the least.  As of lately, studies on dogfish behavior and biology has become a priority, for example, this study being done by UNH Researchers:

http://www.seagrant.unh.edu/newsdogfish.html

Dogfish shark season opened May 1st this year, and will be coming to a close in the next couple of weeks.  Though just recently the amount of dogfish being hauled in has been decreasing, for weeks on end there were an unbearable amount to sort through.  Fishermen have typically been filling their daily 3,000 pound limit after pulling in just one or two strings of nets, with an additional one to three strings yet in the water to be pulled in.  That means, that though their quota for the day was already fulfilled, they would still need to go and pull in the remaining strings, meaning additional time and work, overall resulting in great amounts of bycatch because they had already fulfilled their quota.  By the end of the work day, dogfish were being thrown overboard left and right, dead or alive, because they weren’t allowed to land any additional quota, which all said and done meant more work for no additional pay for the day, unless they were able to pick out a fish of value here and there amidst the chaos of dogs.

Kuris Lang Gillnetting for Dogs

Kurtis Lang Gillnetting for Dogs

In some instances, if one fishermen still needed some dogfish to fulfill his quota for the day, another fishermen would radio him with the coordinates for his remaining string, loaning him his gear for the day, so that fishermen could go and pull in his last string, pick out the dogfish and then reset it for the next day.  But the fishermen aren’t always so lucky; it’s not everyday that there’s a fishermen on the water looking for extra dogs, seeing as there’s so many.

Jamie Hayward and nothing but dogs

Jamie Hayward and nothing but dogs

This is called getting "Dogged Up"

This is called getting “Dogged Up”

And worst of all, dogfish are worth very little in comparison to the more popular species of fish such as cod, haddock, monkfish, and pollock.  With market prices for cod averaging around $4, dogfish prices hardly compare at around $0.50 a pound.  And to make matters worst, dogfish are known for eating the more valuable fish, likely having a direct effect on the local fish stocks.

Pulling in a string of dogs

Pulling in a string of dogs

So if so many dogfish are being harvested within our local waters, why are we not buying dogfish in local markets or at local restaurants?  I know I’ve dished the dogfish  dirt before, but really, why aren’t we as citizens of the east coast not eating one of the most abundant species of shark during the summertime when it is most plentiful?  It just doesn’t makes sense.  England and Germany seem to love it, seeing as the majority of our seacoast’s catch is being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean.  So why don’t we?

Trying to decide what to do next...

Trying to decide what to do next…

At the beginning of July, when I first began participating in the local commercial fisheries, I decided there was no excuse not to try some dogfish and I brought it to the Black Trumpet Bistro where I bus tables on the weekends.  I showed up with a few filets and asked them if they could find a tasty way to utilize them.  The result, a Fried Dogfish Po-Boy which has now been on the menu as an entree for over a month with great success.  I have had it myself and it tastes delicious, and those that I’ve talked to who have tried it have agreed.  If it can be served at a high-end restaurant, there’s no reason it does not qualify for the average New Englanders’ dinner table.  In fact I grilled some the other night; dogfish kebab skewers.  You can find the recipe below.

Mainly dogfish

Mainly dogfish

Try something new.  Ask for dogfish, and tell others about what’s going on in our local waters.  Sometimes word of mouth can be the most powerful of tools in making a change.  There’s no reason we shouldn’t be eating one of the most abundant species in our waters here on the seacoast.  Don’t be afraid, I promise you will be pleasantly surprised, as were my friends when I served up these kebabs last thursday night…

Dogfish Kebabs

Dogfish Kebabs

Cheers.

DOGFISH SHARK KEBABS

2 lbs. Dogfish

1/4 C. olive oil

3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

1 Tsp. Fresh Dill

2 Peppers

1 Summer Squash

Paprika 

Lemon Wedges

Cut dogfish shark into 1 inch cubes, rinse with water and pat dry. Prepare marinade by mixing olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, dill and chervil in a dish large enough to hold the fish. Place fish into marinade and place into refrigerator for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. Thread fish cubes onto skewers alternating fish with summer squash and peppers. Sprinkle kebabs with paprika and grill or broil for 10 minutes. Baste frequently with marinade. Serve with lemon wedges and rice or pasta.

 

 

One Fishy Summer

My summer off from school is coming to a close, and my 2 month internship as a Brian Doyle Fellow through NH Sea Grant is wrapping up as well, however I am not ready to give up the fight; so have no fear, the blog will go on.  I am determined to shed as much light as I am capable of as a full time student, on the NH seacoast’s fish issues throughout the next 4 months before I graduate from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Marine Biology.  Questions to consider:

Who is fishing our waters?  What are they catching?  What problems are they facing as a group?  What problems are the fish populations facing as a whole?  Where is the seafood in the markets coming from and how was it fished?  

49 Inch Cod

49 Inch Cod

I have been fishing on over 14 commercial fishing vessels the past 2 months, in addition to my 2 other jobs, arriving at harbor before any sign of sun amidst the dark night, and have worked alongside the fishermen helping with their daily tasks to the best of my ability.  And overall I feel they have been grateful for my presence, along with the sincerity of my intentions, whether they have agreed with my views or not.  Though the summer is wrapping up, I am going to continue to fish on the weekends because of a busy class schedule during the week, and I will continue to share my experiences along the way.

My work as an intern for NH Sea Grant is coming to a close, but I am hoping to continue working with them in one way or another in the future.  My biographies on local fishermen will be used on the NH Fresh and Local Seafood page, as well as at the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative, in addition to several other places throughout the seacoast.  If you’d like to talk fishues with me sometime, you should stop by Fishtival, the 4th Annual Fish and Lobster Festival, taking place at Prescott Park in Portsmouth on September 22nd, from 12:00-4:00.  I will have a table there, and may possibly be presenting.  It should be a great day, filled with excellent opportunities to educate oneself about our NH seacoast.

That being said, thanks for all the support from family, friends, new blog friends, co-workers and fishermen alike.  Knowing so many great people are reading my work has kept me writing, as well as helping me to wake at such crazy hours.  It means a lot to me. Truly.  Stay tuned for additional Fishues; there’s a never ending supply of material, I can assure you.

Read Your Fishues!

Read Your Fishues!

And Eat Local Seafood!