Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stocking steelhead trout for aquaculture

Local fishermen are once again working with UNH professor of zoology Hunt Howell and NHSG/UNHCE aquaculture specialist Michael Chambers to raise steelhead trout in offshore cages. Last year's efforts were extremely successful, yielding fillets that were in high demand at local fish markets. The fishermen that helped out by feeding the fish and maintaining the nets received some of the profits last December, helping to keep them going amidst economic challenges that the fleet is facing. Howell and Chambers are once again leading these efforts for the 2013 field season with the help of lead fisherman Erik Anderson.

Three N.H. fishermen--Bill Marconi, his son Will and brother Vinny--recently helped to stock 300, 2/3-lb. trout in the fish pens just off the coast from Fort Constitution in New Castle. Mike from Sumner Brook Fish Farm in Ossipee, N.H., delivered the fish to the UNH pier.

Will lowered the fish to Bill and Vinny on the boat deck where the trout were placed in aerated tanks.

There were two pens waiting for the fish just around the corner from the pier. The trout were placed into one pen and covered with a net to prevent predation by birds.

Approximately eight local fishermen--many of the same individuals who helped with the project last year--will feed the fish and clean the nets again this year for harvest later in the fall.

Another 800, 1/3 lb. trout were temporarily stocked into a cage in the warmer waters of Great Bay at the UNH Jackson Estuarine Lab. Chambers is trying to determine the best weight and acclimation period at which to stock. The larger trout cost more to purchase from the fish farm, but the smaller fish will require more food to reach market weight. Chambers will run the calculations based on their growth this year and decide how to proceed in future years. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What's growing at the UNH Pier? Spring 2013 edition

The longer days are allowing for a lot of growth going on at the UNH Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex--specifically, under the pier. NHSG/UNHCE aquaculture specialist Michael Chambers takes us on the tour:

Sugar kelp from the seeded line deployed this winter is now quite long and full. The kelp will be harvested soon and Michael is looking for local chefs and restaurants interested in trying it out on their menus.

This little lumpfish was hiding in the kelp. Lumpfish eat sea lice off other fish.

Here is a tiny sea urchin also hanging out in the kelp.

Michael is testing oyster growth under the piers. The wave action chips away the ragged edges of the shells, causing the oysters to grow a deeper cupped shell that leads to a meatier oyster. He hopes to test their ability to grow in offshore areas later this summer.

Mussels grow naturally on any line put into the water. Pending EPA approval, these mussels growing under the pier can be sold to local seafood markets and restaurants.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Local Restaurant hosts local food dinner featuring locally sourced fish

The All Local Dinner Menu

New Hampshire Sea Grant joined Chef Evan Mallett and Seacoast Local at his restaurant, The Black Trumpet Bistro, this past Tuesday night for a special dinner.  The meal was a 50-mile challenge local food dinner, part of Seacoast Local’s Field and Spoon Dinner series.  The event was sold out, with approximately 35 diners present.  NH Sea Grant, though not an event host, did support the dinner by donating the local seafood that Chef Mallett made the central features of his dinner.  The challenge of the dinner series was for the participating chefs to create a menu with local food sourced from a 50-mile radius a feat, which Mallett joked was a little difficult in March!

Buttermilk mackerel

Before people arrived, Dr. Gabriela Bradt, who was NH Sea Grant’s representative for 
the evening was invited into the kitchen as Evan and his staff were busy preparing the meal. Evan was thinly slicing the scallops that he had gotten from The R/V Rimrack and he was excited to show just how fresh they were. As he sliced into the scallops, they were still moving! Evan commented “you can’t get any fresher than this”. 

Fresh Scallops 
Chef Evan Mallett, Black Trumpet Bistro

The event began promptly at 6 PM and the downstairs dining area of the Black Trumpet was elegantly set and the atmosphere was warm and inviting.  As people were seated, the staff brought out a “Seren-dippity Spring Farmhouse Ale”, a beer specially blended for the event by Throwback Brewery located in North Hampton.  Shortly thereafter, the first course - a Raw scallop and Nettle brodo (broth) - was served.  

Dave Boynton, Seacoast Local

During this course, Seacoast Local Director Dave Boynton and board member, Amy Winans spoke about the dinner series and about the Seacoast Local mission and current programs and events.  Chef Mallett then came out and explained that he agreed to partner with Seacoast Local in putting on the event because he is a huge supporter and believer in the eat local movement. 

Sauteed Maine Shrimp

Mallett went on to “introduce” the menu and explain where all the food came from and how he had to “break the 50-mile rule” in order to obtain some of the ingredients (the Nettles for the brodo came from RI!).  Evan explained that all the seafood came from local dayboats because they only fished within that 50-mile radius. The seafood featured, shrimp, scallops, mackerel and hake all came either from Maine or directly from the Seacoast (R/V Rimrack and Seaport Fish). 

Salted hake chowder

After Evan finished speaking he excused himself because he was also preparing food for his regular customers!  The meal was served family style and proceeded with dish after dish, all beautifully presented. Towards the end of the meal, Dr. Bradt briefly spoke about NH Sea Grant’s involvement with the dinner and spoke about the efforts of NH Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension to support the local fishing industry by encouraging people to buy from their local fishermen and other local seafood suppliers.  

Find fresh NH-caught seafood

Dr. Bradt directed the diners to the newly redesigned website to get more information about where to get NH-caught seafood and from whom.  She explained that in 2013, with the help of a steering committee made up of fishermen, chefs and other industry representatives, NH Sea Grant would be unveiling a marketing campaign and effort to promote the NH Fresh and Local seafood brand, holding events and participating in other programs in support of the local fishermen and the eat local movement.

Lots of diners interested in local seafood

After a delicious peach-based dessert, the dinner ended and from the conversation and the smiles all around, it seemed as if the event was a huge success.  The last in the dinner series will be held at the Kitchen on April 13.

Yummy peach dessert

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Talking about how to protect the little guy…

As part of the “ Who Fishes Matters Tour” sponsored by the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) a forum on “Catch Shares and Community Safeguards” was held at the Portsmouth Public Library on March 4, 2013.  The forum was well attended, with a mixed audience ranging from UNH students, to local fishermen, academics and other community representatives.  The “ Who Fishes Matters” tour is an attempt to promote discussion across New England regarding better policies and protections for the fishing industry. 

The “ Catch Share and Community Safeguards” forum opened the discussion surrounding the proposed Amendment 18 to the groundfish management plan by the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) which will be up for consideration on Wednesday, March 6.  Amendment 18 would consider establishing accumulation caps and other issues associated with fleet diversity.  Accumulation caps would potentially provide protection to the smaller boat fleet diversity as well as limit any one entity from having disproportionate control of the total allowable catch.  The establishment of these safeguards and provisions in Amendment 18 are necessary since the implementation of the sector management and catch share system in New England in 2010.  In the two years since the sector management system was put in place, local fishermen have noted an increase in fleet consolidation has taken place.  Fleet consolidation means fewer and fewer smaller boats can keep fishing.  As of 2012 there has been approximately a 63% decrease in the New England groundfish fleet.

Catch share systems that have been implemented without any safeguards in other areas of the world have led to the collapse of the small boat fleets.  Ellen Goethel, the wife of local fisherman and NEFMC member, David Goethel, explained that because quota can be bought or leased within the catch share system, those with access to high amounts of capital- namely the larger boats - can quickly buy up all the quota, forcing others to have to lease to fish, which in many cases is unsustainable for smaller boats.  Interestingly, some of the safeguards that are currently being proposed as part of Amendment 18 such as 20% accumulation cap, had already been written into the catch share system in New England, but the NEFMC removed that provision.

Much of the discussion at Monday night’s forum centered around the 5 provisions being considered in Amendment 18 including:
1) Quota Caps
2) maintaining inshore and offshore fleets
3) quota set-asides
4) transparent leasing provisions
5) owner-operator provisions

Regarding the inshore-offshore fleets, some participants suggested that the only equitable way of dealing with larger boats fishing inshore would be to implement a system where boats would have to sign in to either fishing offshore or fishing inshore but that once declared, that boat could only fish in the declared area.  This would hopefully limit the large boats from fishing inshore and allow the less sea-worthy inshore fleet more access.  Most people agreed that pursuing Amendment 18 was worthwhile although some felt that in the end it might be a ‘too little, too late” situation, but that safeguards for protecting the smaller boats, the diversity of the fleet and the ability for the next generation to enter into fishing  was essential.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

UNH sugar kelp production

The fish pens in the Piscataqua River that normally hold steelhead trout are now teeming with another form of life — sugar kelp. This native species is being grown on lines this winter for eventual harvest in late spring when they reach 2-3 m in length. NHSG/UNHCE marine aquaculture specialist Michael Chambers says he expects to grow almost 50 kelp plants per meter of line, leading to a potential harvest weight of 1800 kg total — that’s almost 4,000 lbs of seaweed. 

Above: Aquaculture technician Jess Cranney holds a blade of sugar kelp near the pier at the UNH Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex in New Castle, N.H.

While they grow, the kelp will help extract excess nutrients like ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in the river. And for a waterway like the Piscataqua already impaired by too many nutrients, any bit of help is welcome. But the kelp’s final destination will be select markets for human consumption: once harvested, the kelp will be sent to Ocean Approved for processing and distribution as kelp slaw and kelp noodles. 

But how exactly do you grow kelp on lines? 

Sugar kelp “gametophytes” — the reproductive tissue in the kelp blade that releases spores into the environment — were collected from naturally occurring kelp growing on the fish pens under the pier. Once collected, the gametophytes were brought to Ocean Approved in Portland, Maine, where they were spawned in captivity. The kelp spores settled onto spools of twine and grown in tanks for two months. These spools were recently brought back to N.H. with the help of Sarah Redmond, marine extension associate from Maine Sea Grant and Paul Dobbins, co-owner of Ocean Approved.

Above: Sarah Redmond and Paul Dobbins demonstrate techniques for setting the seeded kelp twine onto a submerged grow-out line.

The spore lines were wrapped around a weighted rope and deployed into the empty fish pens. 

Above: Kelp spore line is wrapped around a Polyester line with weights.

Chambers says there is potential for local oyster farmers to grow kelp or other seaweeds on their sites in Great Bay, both as a way to increase revenue and decrease nutrient levels.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exploring challenges and opportunities of the lobster pricing structure

Last summer, the price of lobsters fell to almost record lows — as low as $2.99/lb. in some markets. Although low lobster prices meant good news for consumers hosting lobster bakes near the beach, it caused some financial hardships for lobstermen who weren’t receiving much money for their efforts. Seacoast lobstermen are concerned that this price drop is becoming a yearly trend that could eventually push many of them out of the business.

The N.H. Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension Sustainable Marine Fisheries Program hosted a Fisheries Roundtable on Feb. 11 from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, N.H. to discuss this chronic collapse of lobster pricing structure. About a dozen local lobstermen, dealers, and NHSG/UNHCE specialists attended the meeting. The goals of the roundtable were twofold: to improve the understanding of the mechanisms behind the annual collapse in prices and to generate ideas for possible alternative strategies that might help address the problem.

Attendees discussed their thoughts about the causes of the low prices. Many felt that the large numbers of lobsters — particularly in Downeast Maine and Canada where there is a glut of them — and lobster quality were important factors driving the cost down.

With warming ocean temperatures earlier in the spring, lobsters shed their shells a month or two earlier than usual, before the time when tourists would be visiting and eat these “shedders.” Many of the processors are overloaded at that time of year (the height of fishing season in Canada) and so cannot help process all the shedders that are brought in. For those lobsters that can be processed, the prices are often slashed to move them out the door faster.

“Low prices help to move lobsters, but go too low and you do brand damage,” said Brett Taylor, a lobster dealer from Taylor Lobster in Kittery, Maine. “Then if you want to increase the price, people think it’s too expensive when it goes back up to normal prices.” 

Seafood dealers pay more money for hardshell lobsters than for softshells or lobsters with older shells that appear “beat up” because consumers generally prefer the hardshells. However, softshells are more readily available and cheaper in the Seacoast region than hardshells — and by most accounts, the meat is sweeter than that of hardshell lobsters, too. Perhaps what is needed is a better marketing campaign to help get the word out about these often-overlooked lobsters, some attendees suggested.

Some lobstermen noted the selling lobsters directly off their boats could help increase their prices, as some consumers enjoy going down to the docks and interacting directly with the lobstermen. However, selling directly off the boat could damage the relationship between lobstermen and their seafood dealers.

One lobsterman noted that many of the younger generations aren’t interested in cooking and preparing live lobsters in their homes anymore — they prefer lobster that is ready to use. A value-added product, such as the lobster ravioli manufactured by the Portsmouth Lobster Company, could tap into those consumer markets.

Gabby Bradt, NHSG/UNHCE commercial fisheries specialist, noted that if lobsters were banded with the N.H. Fresh and Local brand, it might help increase demand locally. Many attendees noted that local restaurants often buy their lobster from Canada, but perhaps they could be convinced to use N.H. lobsters on their menus instead.

Roundtable attendees agreed that future steps likely involve collaboration with the Seacoast groundfishermen to come up with solutions to better market the fish species and lobsters that are still available.   This collaboration would merge lobstermen and groundfishermen into a coordinated marketing campaign – 2013 N.H. Fresh and Local Seafood -  that was discussed at a NH Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension meeting last week.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A new campaign to help local fishermen

This year will usher in a lot of big changes for New England fishermen, as they are facing deep cuts in groundfish quotas and must find innovative ways to make ends meet. With the help of N.H. Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension staffers, Seacoast locals are putting together a campaign to find solutions to keep fishermen going amidst the challenges that loom for the coming years. The first in a series of meetings was held at the Portsmouth Public Library on Feb. 6, 2013 to address what can be done.

“The time is now to pull together the voices in the fishing community for a broader campaign,” said Erik Chapman, commercial fisheries specialist for N.H. Sea Grant/UNH Cooperative Extension who led the meeting. “We need to develop trust and synergy between us in all these efforts.”

The goal of the meeting was for these individuals to meet and discuss their ability to contribute to such a campaign. The campaign’s steering committee will likely comprise more than a dozen individuals ranging from fishermen, chefs, seafood distributors, non-profit groups and UNHCE/NHSG specialists.

The marketing campaign — its name is forthcoming — hopes to educate the public about the availability and sustainability of locally caught fish. Cod and other groundfish will be available but in very limited quantities as they are being managed for improved sustainability in their stocks. In the meantime, other species will be more prominent including hake, pollock, redfish, softshell lobsters and dogfish. The attendees acknowledged that public perception is a big hurdle, as they simply haven’t been exposed to these species on most restaurant menus.   

The goal of the campaign will be to foster a connection between fishermen and consumers and to offer members of the Seacoast community the opportunity to participate in a movement that will help preserve our fishing heritage and conserve our marine resources (visit for more information on our fishermen and where you can buy local seafood)

There was a lot of energy in the room and it was clear that everyone is dedicated to working together to find solutions for the year ahead.

Stay tuned!