KURTIS LANG, Gillnetter
F/V Alanna Renee
“In 10 or 20 years, I think it’s going to be all over; there’s no young blood left. But you can’t think like that.” Meet Kurtis Lang, one of the youngest full-time fishermen left in New Hampshire. Having grown up lobstering with his father and having fished since the age of 10, it only made sense to him that he continued to fish into adulthood. When asked why he fishes he responds, “I just like being out here. Even a bad day is a good day when you’re on the water.” He also mentions avoiding the family landscaping business, Lang's Landscape Service, in Greenland, NH may also have been a motive as well. By age 20, Kurtis had a boat of his own, gill netting off the coast of New Hampshire. For the past two years now, he has been fishing off a 36 foot Novi built in 1999. Kurtis and his two deckhands fish 7 days a week with a few days off in October, a time when he typically switches over to lobstering to make up for the lack of fish allocated to him that time of year. Currently, while the dogfish sharks are plentiful through the end of August, a good day is described as catching 3,000 lbs. of dogfish and about 10 boxes full of fish, such as cod, pollock, sole, and monkfish.
Though Kurtis agrees it is important to establish a fishery that is able to sustain itself, he argues it's hard to really predict what's in the water, and thus certain regulations aren't always appropriate. "Came out here yesterday," he says, "there were no fish, just dogs. And it would make you think that there's no fish, but things are always changing. It's a big ocean, and there are lots of factors affecting the changes: tides, migration patterns, water temperatures, spawning. There's never just one factor." He later shares he pulled in over 8,000 lbs. of dogfish just the day before and very few fish, a dreaded day for any NH fishermen, considering the price for a pound of dogfish is typically around half a dollar, not to mention he's only technically allowed to land 3,000 lbs. a day as prescribed by set quotas.
He worries that the continual increase in fishing regulations is going to put more local fishermen out of business if the regulations don't scare them away first. Piles of paperwork, emails, and phone calls, on top of fishing a full day, is common place for today's fishermen. "In some cases, it's making people not want to fish," he claims. With the growing concern for the Atlantic cod populations, he fears what regulations will come next. "If they cut the quota for cod fish anymore, I don't see how most of us could continue." After all, fish is where the money lies.
When asked about local seafood in relation to the general public, he states, "It's good to have local interest in seafood because people don't always know what's in our water here, and people don't know what we go through as fishermen, to catch fish. I think more people would buy fresh fish if they knew more about it."
To NH Seafood Consumers:
"Buy fresh fish. You'll be amazed at how much better it tastes."
Kurtis resides in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with his wife and his two daughters, Sydney, 3, and Riley, 1.
Gillnetter, RICKY ANDERSON
F/V Bridget Leigh, Rye Harbor
“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."
Gillnetter, Jamie Hayward
F/V Heidi & Elisabeth, Portsmouth Harbor
"The only reason I'm still here is because I'm good at it. If I wasn't good, I would have been gone a long time ago,” says Jamie Hayward as we head out to sea in the early hours of the morning. Jamie has been fishing for the past 25 years and gill netting for the past 20 years. Today he fishes off a Novi that his father had built for himself in 2000 by McGray Boat Builders LTD, Cape Island, Nova Scotia. Jamie grew up gill netting with his father, but when his father switched over to lobstering, Jamie bought his boat in 2004, and hired a crew to operate his previous boat, the Rolling Stone which also operates out of Badgers Island.
His crew jokes, and suggests his nickname is, King Cod. Jamie smiles, and shrugs them off. "We have a finely tuned machine here," he responds when asked about his success as a fishermen. Targeting dogfish, monkfish, cod, and pollock, Jamie is well-known by other fishermen for fishing up and down the edge of a 900 square mile section closed off to all fishermen just over 20 miles out to sea. A closed section can serve different functions, but more often than not, they serve as a refuge for different species, helping to maintain their populations.
Jamie describes a good day fishing as when he can sell everything that comes up in his net. "A good day fishing? Westbound is a good day fishing; when we're able to go out, fish, and come back. Any day when we don't get over dogged really." Over dogged, an issue many NH fishermen have been dealing with the past couple of weeks. NH fishermen are only allocated 3,000 pounds of dogfish a day due to regulations assigned by management, but as of lately dogfish shark have been hard to avoid, and many have been pulling in a great deal over their allocated quota and very few fish since the dogfish and the more valuable species, like Atlantic cod, don't always coincide. "Today, slightly cloudy with a chance of dogs," suggests Tommy, Jamie's deckhand, a man who has been in the business 30 years himself.
When asked what a sustainable fishery means, Jamie responds, "To maintain a certain amount of fish. It's just a scientific term that says fish will be here forever as long as the government maintains a certain level of regulations." When asked about a sustainable fishery in NH he replies, "It's already sustainable, it's not being overfished, but the annual catch limit is based on science and that changes all the time.” He pauses, gazing out to the open water, "The government's in control now, you can't blame the fishermen anymore." He pauses, and one of his deckhands jokingly fills in, "Don't hate the player, hate the game." There are laughs all around.
Jamie is a big fan of the New England Patriots and goes to their games any chance he gets. When I ask if he has any other hobbies, he responds, "Maintenance." I look confused, and he clarifies. Maintenance: mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, working on the boat, etc. "We fish 13 hours a day, 7 days a week. That's all we have time to do."
"Then why do you do it," I ask.
"If I had any kids, I would say I fished to feed my kids, but it's really just a means to make a living. It's not really fun anymore," says Jamie Hayward of Eliot, Maine. There's mention of fishing not being what it used to be, and of regulations creating new challenges each year in regards to their ability to make a living. For many fishermen, it's the only way of life they have ever known. He looks over his shoulder from his seat at the helm to his crew filleting fish on the open deck. "I fish to give these guys jobs."
Jamie is one of the few NH fishermen that endures the piles of paperwork to maintain his dealer's licence, allowing him to cut out many of the middle men from the equation, and sell directly to the markets and fish auctions. He sells the majority of his fish off the boat directly to Seaport Fish of Rye, or the fish auction in Gloucester, MA. To NH seafood consumers: “Buy fresh and local fish, but how to find it? You've got to look for it because it's not everywhere you look. It's not in every supermarket or in every restaurant, it's not even in every market. You've got to look for it.”
Visit Seaport Fish to buy Jamie Hayward's catch of the day. Support him and his crew, as well as the future of a Sustainable New Hampshire Fishery.
NH Community Seafood
Community Supported Fishery
Eat Fresher Fish. Support Seacoast Fishermen.
Due to the holiday, there will be no CSF pick-up on Thursday, July 4th. Your share of fish will be available Wednesday, July 3rd instead, at the same place, same time from 4:00-7:00 pm. If you are unable to make this pick-up due to the change in the schedule please contact us immediately and we will do our best to accommodate you.
Thanks for your understanding.
Happy Summer Solstice!
& Enjoy the weekend.
Sarah E. VanHorn
Josh Wiersma, Ph.D
President of Yankee Fishermen Cooperative
“My boat has all the comforts of home, it's just noisier," jokes fisherman Neal Pike of Seabrook, New Hampshire as he pops in the first DVD of the morning at 4:30 am.
On his 42 foot '85 Novi, Sandi Lynn, which he bought in 1997 we set out in search of whiting, the plan for the day being 2-3 tows for about an hour or more each. This time of year Neal targets whiting, herring, mud hake, and an assortment of other bait fish used by other fishermen as well as lobstermen. "I fish all year round," says Neal, "I try not to fish 7 days a week, but sometimes it just works out that way." Neal typically fishes with one other deckhand onboard, and as of lately, that has been his son, also Neal Pike, who's been fishing with his father on and off for as long as he can remember. He shares one memory of his father cutting a pair of skins, or fishing overalls, at the knee so they would be his size. When I ask Neal if he has any other children, he jokes, "When you get perfection, you just stop." His son, a law school graduate who's had difficulty finding work in his field, lets out a laugh and continues pulling on his skins in preparation for the first tow of the morning.
He describes fishing as being different than what it used to be. "You have to be computer-smart now, it never used to be that way." With the system currently in place, all NH commercial fishermen are required by regulations to notify the government 48 hours before they plan to fish, often making it difficult for many of them to plan out their work week. "I used to get up, and see if it's a nice day, and then go," shares Neal. "Now I have to give 48 hours notice. The future of fishing is not good." Neal feels mismanagement is to blame, using the overabundance of dogfish as an example. "It didn't used to be that way," he says with regards to dogfish. "People always say fishermen need to be held accountable, while management is not. They're above the law. Fishermen aren't to blame anymore."
When asked what Neal does for hobbies he responds, “I fish...and I like to ride my motorcycle, a Honda Fury.” Neal Pike's catch is distributed outward via Yankee Cooperative. Most of his baitfish are used locally, while the whiting is shipped all over, and most commonly used for things such as the infamous fish sandwiches or fish sticks that can be found at various establishments around the country.
Given the opportunity to say anything to NH seafood consumers, Neal says, “Thank you,” and I laugh at the simplicity of his response. He looks my way and continues with a smile. “No really, we appreciate it. If they didn't buy our fish we wouldn't make it. That's the truth.”
NH Community Seafood:
Community Supported Fishery
Eat Fresher Fish. Support Seacoast Fishermen.
Happy 1st day of the NH Commercial Fishing Season!
If you are receiving this email it is because you have either
a.) Signed up for our mailing list or
b.) Have purchased a share of our NH cooperative's fish
...or maybe a combination of the two.
First and foremost we'd like to Thank You for choosing to support our local seacoast's fishing community. We have received a tremendous amount of support these past few weeks and cannot thank everyone enough. Secondly, we'd love to fill you in on our progress these past few weeks as we approach the first week of drop-offs, Monday, June 10th.
- Today we spent our time sharing info about our CSF at Chowder Fest in Prescott Park in Portsmouth. We will also be at several Farmers' Markets this upcoming week as well. We'd love for you to stop by and say hello. Look for us at the Durham, Dover, and Exeter Farmers' Market this week.
- We finally have gotten our website up as you have most likely noticed. There are still some edits and hiccups we need to work out, but are thankful for your patience. We are not the most tech-savvy of teams here at our office in Portsmouth Harbor, but are doing our best to learn. We appreciate you sharing any issues you find with the site along the way.
- We have entered all the payments we have received for shares thus far via checks in the mail or in person. If we have received your payment we have entered it into the system, and you should have subsequently received an email saying we have done so. We are hoping to have a pay-pal account added to our site on the checkout page soon at which point you will be able to pay online. Until then we will be accepting checks made out to: NH Community Seafood. They can be mailed to: 1 Peirce Island Rd., Portsmouth NH, 03802. Payment is due by the first day of your pick-up. Any questions regarding payment please feel free to contact us via email or telephone.
- We have been receiving a great deal of publicity as of lately and it has been helpful in accruing additional members. With 98% of our NH catch being exported up until now, we are willing to accept as many members as we're able to support. Share in our harvest! We want you to have our fish first. The more members we can acquire the more NH fish we can keep local, and the better we are able to support our NH Fishermen. We'd like to thank NH Sea Grant, Seacoast Wire, the Portsmouth Herald, NHPR, Seacoast Eat Local, Seacoast Local, the Seacoast Grower's Association, the Union Leader, and many others for promoting us along the way. Below are some links to the press we have been receiving:
- This week we are looking to finally purchase a refrigerated van to transport our fish from our processor, Seaport Fish, to you, the consumer, at our drop-off locations. We're hoping to have our logo painted on it within the next week or so to help our members better identify our vehicle. Also, we will be meeting with our fishermen this Thursday to discuss their involvement with the cooperative. So far they have had nothing but positive feedback. You can read about our guys on our site or on our Fishues blog featured on our homepage.
- We are fast approaching our first week of deliveries. Our plan is to inform you of what fish you will be receiving each week several days in advance in order to help you prepare. It is my intent to include recipes and ideas on our website each week as well. Additionally, we would love to hear back from our members about how you prepared your fresh catch; our Facebook page may be a great place for you to do so for those of you with an account. If you have any conflict with picking up your fish during your scheduled time, please let us know ahead of time and we will do our best to accommodate you. Don't forget to bring a cooler to transport your fish home, keeping your fish cool during those hot summer days. And don't forget to check out our blog page, Fishues: NH Seacoast's Fish Issues, from time to time, where we will be posting articles with news about our local fisheries.
I think that may be it for now, although I'm sure I am forgetting something. If there's any additional information you are looking for, please feel free to contact us and I will do my best to answer your questions. Again we are so very thankful for your patience and support. We have been learning new things each and every day and are doing our best to stay on top of everything in preparation for our first 8 week season. We are very excited about the potential of this new cooperative and the possibilites for the future. Though we are taking it one day at a time, we eventually would like to include shrimp, scallops, lobster, in addition to including restaraunts, and possibly other drop-off locations, especially further in-state for those poor land-locked folk. Any suggestions or ideas are greatly appreciated.
May this newsletter find you well.
Sarah E. VanHorn
Josh Wiersma, Ph.D
In New England, when people hear dogfish, one of the first things to come to mind is Dogfish Head Craft Brews, in fact it is the first thing to pop up on Google search. While many of us know Dogfish Head makes a fine 60 Minute IPA, what about the actual dogfish that are hunting our more valuable groundfish in packs just a short distance offshore here in New Hampshire?
Having fished on over 14 commercial fishing vessels at the peak of Dogfish Shark Season throughout the Summer of 2012, 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, how long they live, where they spawn, let alone where they migrate to and from. Though over time, we were able to remove the species from the endangered species list, by overprotecting the species 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.
In addition to the massive amounts of work peak dogfish season creates for the NH gillnetter, they are most dreaded for the minimal fares they fetch at auction. In comparison to the more popular species of fish such as cod, haddock, and pollock, with some fetching auction prices as high as $4 a pound, dogfish prices hardly compare at around $0.50 a pound. And to make matters worst, dogfish are known for eating the more valuable groundfish, likely having a direct effect on the local fish stocks. When gillnetters are catching lots of dogfish, it is likely they are catching very few groundfish.
Which begs the question, if there are so many dogfish being harvested within our local waters, why are we not buying dogfish in local markets or restaurants?
Where are they all going?
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 make sense. Currently the majority of our Seacoast's dogfish is being shipped to Europe where it is most commonly being used as fish and chips, especially in England. Seeing as the majority of our seacoast's catch is being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean where so many others seem to love it, why don't we too?
There's no reason our dayboat dogfish should be deemed unqualified for the average New Englanders' dinner table. Try it our for yourself. Ask for dogfish, and share with others what is happening 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 dogfish kebabs...
There's plenty of fish in the sea,
and that means more than just Cod and Haddock...
Why not try something new?
Local Species our Community Supported Fishery is planning to offer starting this June:
Dab, Greysole, Yellowtail, Whiting, Hake, Monkfish, Pollock, Redfish, Dogfish Shark, Lobster, Scallops, and Shrimp