Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And That's A Wrap!

It is almost impossible for me to believe that it has been 8 weeks since this journey began with NH Sea Grant and UNH Cooperative Extension.  When I first entered into this fellowship, I was uncertain of what to expect, but now reflecting on my experience, I am amazed at how much I have learned and discovered about collaborative science, the fishing industry, and myself.

It all began with my first meeting with my mentors, Erik Chapman and Gabby Bradt where I realized I would be working on a wide variety of projects.  I wasn't even confident I would be able to manage it all!  Looking back now, I find it funny how nervous I was to start.  In only 8 weeks I have helped Erik monitor the relationship between a major buyer and the Yankee Fishermen's Cooperative in Seabrook, assisted Gabby in testing out one very temperamental marine debris tracking app on an iPad, formated the inaugural issue of UNHCE and NHSG's new newsletter titled "What's The Catch?", assisted the Community Supported Fishery at drop-offs in Dover and Rye, assisted Michael Chambers in small-scale aquaculture of steelhead trout, traveled to five different farmer's markets educating the community on the NH Fresh & Local campaign, and I was able to spend two amazing days lobstering with Gabby and captain Lee Schatvet piloting the lobster bands project on the F/V Yesterday's Storm.

Over the course of this fellowship, I have met many unique and amazing people who I admire greatly from fishermen, to chefs, to oyster farmers, to scientists.  This experience has helped me to discover a strong passion for the fishing industry and as I approach my senior year at UNH I am eager to search for opportunities to continue working in this field.  

I cannot say "thank you" to my mentors enough for all the time they invested in me and the opportunities they have provided me with.  Each week this fellowship presented me with new challenges that forced me to adapt and learn to understand the different perspectives of each challenge.  I learned very quickly that this industry is complex, and in order to be a part of the progress, one must be able to understand multiple sides to every issue at hand.  This fellowship has taught me to better communicate with a variety of people in many ways including electronically, on paper, and in person.  This opportunity has also helped me to become a more independent worker and a stronger decision maker.  

I am excited for what the future holds, and I am ready to put all I have learned in the past 8 weeks to use where ever I end up!  Thank you to Sea Grant for this amazing opportunity and to Erik Chapman and Gabby Bradt for guiding me throughout this journey. 

My mentors, top left: Erik Chapman, top right: Gabriela Bradt

Whether I was in the office, at a market, or on the water, I was challenged by each project at hand.  I can honestly say, though, that I enjoyed every minute!  

Until next time...
Shout out to LJ Schatvet for using hake heads for bait and teaching me to be a lobsterman! Courtesy of Gabriela Bradt

Oyster Farmers Taking Action

Last night I was able to sit in on a very productive round table meeting that brought together local oyster farmers and resource personnel.  The resource side of the meeting was represented by the FSA (Farm Service Agency), and members of UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant.  The round table discussion was led by Charlie French of UNHCE community and economic development (below).  I must say, I greatly admired his ability to ensure those on the resource side and the farmer's side of the discussion had equal opportunity to speak their minds and communicate with each other.

It was an incredibly fascinating meeting, which began with presentations by Ray Grizzle and Steve Jones of UNH to present the history of oyster farming in New Hampshire and the risk of water-borne disease within the oysters.  Their presentations were highly informative- I did not previously know that oyster farming is practiced in so many regions of the great bay and how much the farmers must invest before they can begin.
Charlie French of UNHCE leads the round table discussion
The round table discussion began with asking the oyster farmers what challenges or barriers they currently face.  It was a common theme that getting started was not easy.  In order to begin, several years worth of money must be invested for them to get a loan to begin their farms, however; it takes about three years for the oysters to become market size.  Thus, getting enough money together to begin an oyster farm is a difficult process, and anything that can be done to make this easier on new farmers would be extremely helpful.

It was incredible to see the dynamic between these oyster farmers.  They have a strong drive to work as a more cohesive group and they have intense visions of where they want to see this industry go.  For example they want to be able to lease their own area for farming where they will have space for their boats, areas to sort their crop etc.  I have no doubt that if these people stick together, they will create great things.  I hope more meetings such as this one can occur for this group to maintain open communication between the business world, and those who are out working in the oyster farms.  If there is one thing to take away from these experiences, it is that communication is vital to seeing these industries thrive.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Closing The Road Show

Last week, Eliot and I brought the "traveling road show" to a grand total of 5 different farmer's markets. We began in Rye then traveled to Portsmouth, Durham, Dover, and Exeter.  At each market we gave out information on the NH Fresh & Local campaign and a survey to determine the demand for fresh fish at farmer's markets.  The overall experience was great, and the communities really seem to want to help the fishing industry by buying local seafood.  The majority of people who took the time to speak with us said they would want to buy fish from the farmer's market.        

Portsmouth was the largest of the markets we attended, and the community was very eager to be involved.  Durham, and Dover were more along the lines of Rye in that the markets were smaller, and less crowded.  Ending with the Exeter market was great, as the market was a little larger than Rye, Durham and Dover but still had a positive atmosphere and wide variety of people.  
Conversing at the Portsmouth market.  

It was interesting to see how each market differed slightly from the next.  We encountered a wide variety of people ranging from those who knew all about the campaign to those who were not interested in seeing a booth at the market with nothing to sell.   This became difficult and at times discouraging, but the positives outweighed the negatives by a long shot.  I'm happy to be able to say that at each market, there was at least one person who said, "Keep doing what you're doing! This is a great cause!".

We've already started seeing some positive outcomes from this traveling road show.  One of which originated in the Durham farmer's market.  At the market, there was a booth positioned next to Eliot and I for Cedar Point Shellfish, selling oysters farmed in the Great Bay.  The organization is run by a family and the response to their set up was extremely positive.  There were always shoppers surrounding the booth asking the family questions and the customers were all smiles when they walked away with fresh, local oysters! We thought it was a great coincidence to have our booths placed next to each other, one to sell local oysters and on to promote local seafood and we were relieved to have a group near by that was also new to the farmer's market scene. We really enjoyed sharing this experience with Cedar Point Shellfish, and now NH Fresh & Local will be partnering with Cedar Point Shellfish to continue to promote buying fresh, local seafood!  
Set up next to Cedar Point Shellfish- how perfect!
Cedar Point Shellfish had a successful first market, keep it up!

Energy from Waste!

From plastic bottles to balloons to old fishing gear, the oceans are heavily polluted.  This issue is of high concern and has led to the collaboration of four organizations to develop the Fishing For Energy partnership.  The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Foundation (NOAA), Schnitzer Steel and Covanta Energy Corporation have come together to use marine debris to make energy.  This is done at a Covanta waste to energy facility, one of which is in Haverhill, MA.  I was able to accompany one of my mentors, Dr. Gabby Bradt, to Haverhill to tour the facility and listen to the partners discuss the progress of this program.

Covanta facility in Haverhill, Photo courtesy of NH Sea Grant
The event began with introductions from each of the partners in regards to the progress of this effort.  Gabby spoke a brief piece to emphasize the role local fishermen play in this project by assisting in marine clean ups at the Isles of Shoals and utilizing a marine debris bucket on board their boats to reduce pollution in the water.  Collectively, all parties agree that utilizing Covanta's resources to convert marine debris (i.e. fishing gear, balloons etc.)  into energy by placing waste bins in major ports to collect the debris and transport it to a Covanta facility such as the one we were able to tour in Haverhill.
Gabby giving her talk! 
The Covanta tour was a unique and extremely interesting experience.  The tour began where the debris is all dropped off to begin its conversion.  The amount of waste in the facility was overwhelming (and I'm not just talking about the smell), but encouraging to think that in a short period of time this waste would become usable energy.
First stop for the waste!
Close up of lobster traps in the waste facility.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Traveling Road Show

This week began an exciting campaign for the NH Fresh & Local brand! UNH grad student, Eliot Jones, and I are traveling locally to farmers markets to interact directly with the community and determine if a demand exists at these markets for fresh, local seafood.  Our traveling road show consists of a display, educational pamphlets on where to buy local seafood, and a brief survey.

Our display!
Yesterday was our first of many markets, which took place in Rye.  We arrived at the town center, set up our display and jumped right into making small talk about buying local seafood with those who stopped to view our display.  Although the market was relatively small, it was a great way to figure out what people were most interested in hearing about and how many people were willing to take the survey.

To me, it was exciting to see the positive reaction from the community.  The vast majority of people we spoke with were eager to learn of places they could  find locally caught fish and how it helps not only the fishermen but the environment and the community.  It's very encouraging to see the potential to bring seafood into farmers markets and keep the catch local! In the upcoming week we will travel to farmers markets in Portsmouth, Durham, Dover and Exeter, it's going to be a busy time, but Eliot and I are excited to work together on gathering and sharing as much information as we can!
Eliot and I at the Rye market. Photo courtesy of Eliot Jones.

Always Root for the Underdog

To kick of the third week of my fellowship, I attended a NH Fresh & Local feature dinner that utilized  dogfish, an underutilized species, in all of the meal's courses.  The idea behind the dinner is to feature a species of fish that can be caught in large quantities, but most people would not typically choose to try.  By encouraging the community to expand their palates and try new fish the impact on the main fish species such as cod and shrimp can be lessened.  Dogfish is the species used for English fish 'n chips, and thus the majority of the dogfish catch is exported.  This feature dinner showed how dogfish can be utilized here as Chef Taylor of The Green Monkey (Portsmouth, NH) created three delicious courses for the crowd.

The dinner started with a taste of England as we experienced dogfish fish 'n chips! The reaction was very positive and the fish was quite tasty:
Appetizer- Dogfish fish 'n chips
The next course was was dogfish medallions wrapped in bacon.  The reaction to this was very positive and the flavor was great:
Course 1- Dogfish medallions wrapped in  bacon.
The second course was my personal favorite, and the favorite of many others as well: dogfish chowder made from artichoke and no potato- amazing!

Course 2- Dogfish chowder
The third and final meal course was dogfish kabobs with veggies and jasmine rice.  Chef Taylor really outdid himself, this and all the other courses were fantastic!

Course 3- Dogfish kabob
The best part of this dinner, though, was the positive atmosphere.  The community members who attended were clearly eager to be involved in keeping more of the seafood local and trying new species.  It was great to be able to walk around the room and hear how the guests had heard of the dinner and why they chose to come.  One couple that I particularly enjoyed talking to was so excited to try new things, and thank the fisherman who caught the 25lbs. of dogfish eaten that night. Overall, the dinner was a success and I would love play a larger role in another event such as this in the near future to excite the community and help the local fishing industry.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Yesterday's Storm

Today was an entirely different kind of experience that I was able to share with Fisheries Extension Specialist, Gabby Bradt, and Fisherman Lee Schatvet (LJ).  Gabby, LJ and a local nonprofit have worked together on the Marine Debris to Energy project. LJ has been a great example of a fisherman doing his part to clean coast lines by using his boat, time, fuel and brawn to remove marine debris and derelict fishing gear. Our adventure started on the docks of Rye Harbor at 4:45am... thank goodness for coffee. One of the projects that Gabby is currently working on, The NH Lobster Bands Pilot Project,  involves the claw bands seen on lobsters in markets.  The bands project is a combination project that brings together marketing of NH Fresh and Local lobsters and marine debris removal projects with 5 lobstermen. More information on the project can be found at "www.nhseafood.com/bands".
The bands- Keep an eye out for them!
To observe the bands being used for the first time, Gabby and I were able to accompany LJ on the F/V Yesterday's Storm as he hauled gear and collected his catch.  I was amazed by how LJ could monitor and maintain so many different tasks at once from baiting traps, to running the traps, measuring the lobster, banding the claws, and running the boat:
 LJ running a trap down the deck  
Banding the claws.
Seeing how demanding the work is motivates me to remain involved in the Fresh & Local marketing campaign. These fishermen work so hard they deserve that relationship with the community to keep their catch local.  Keeping the catch local is better for the fishermen, the economy, the environment and ultimately the community as well- who doesn't want fresher fish?! The experience was fantastic and I hope to be able to assist Gabby further on this great project.

The catch.

Trying out being a lobsterman, definitely a challenge but an awesome experience!