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.