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A food blog from NHPR news, digital, & programming staff, exploring food & food culture around the state & the New England region. On-air features air Thursdays on All Things Considered and Saturdays during Weekend Edition.

Foodstuffs: Farm-Share For Fishing Program Expands In Year Two

Sarah VanHorn, Manager of NH Community Seafood
N.H. Sea Grant

This is the second year for a New Hampshire program that brings the farm share model to fish.

It’s called New Hampshire Community Seafood, and it was the subject of a recent column by David Brooks, who writes the weekly Granite Geek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and Granite Geek.org. He joined us on All Things Considered to talk about the program.

The program launched last year, in the Seacoast, Manchester and Tilton. Now it’s expanding to, among other places, your area, in Nashua. A sign of success?

I think it is. CSAs, the community supported agriculture on your local farm, has been around for a while, and it’s gotten quite mature. It’s gone from being the weirdo hippies in Wilton to being a mainstream thing in about the last ten years. So having it expand to seafood was, I thought, a great idea.

And not just to seafood but to local seafood – they’re trying to highlight some of the local fish that don’t always get a lot of attention.

Yeah. From the geeky point of view, frankly, the species aspect is kind of interesting. Obviously, we all know that the oceans are being grotesquely overfished. Cod is the classic example - you could practically walk across the water, there were so many cod back in colonial days and now they have trouble finding it. So I, like many people, have felt guilty when buying any seafood at the supermarket because I was afraid I was doing something bad to the ocean. Part of the appeal of this is a way to have seafood while minimizing, shall we say, your effect on the environment out in the ocean.

The fishing industry has been largely critical of the catch-share limits set up to prevent overfishing. I found it interesting in your column that one of the founders of this project said this model works better under catch-share limits.

It was described as like a cap-and-share for fishing, [like] the cap-and-share that’s used for pollution and carbon pollution, in which, basically, there’s a total cap, and anybody who’s participating in the program can share how much of it they use. They can sell the rights, they can trade them, they can use more this period and less that period.

And so the fishermen are doing it – there’s about 30-something total fishermen involved and about 16-18, I believe, are actively fishing in this particular season. It gives them the flexibility, which is what you need when you’re a single, small day boat – they’re not one of these big trawlers that’s out there and stays out for a week at a time and catches lots of fish and keeps it frozen at sea.

These are the equivalent of your local farm – and you will go in and when you order your seafood, you’ll talk about how this was caught yesterday by local fishermen, including so-and-so. And there are even plans for having as specific as a QR code, one of those things you look at with your smartphone, and if it’s set up properly it will show you where the fish on your plate was caught. So you can get, like, a little Google Map and it’ll show you, oh, it was 20 miles off Star Island, and caught yesterday by this guy, and you can click on it, and see a picture of the fisherman in his boat.

And of course that’s the other benefit of this. It not only gets you fresh seafood, which is nice, and is not going to be doing as much harm to the ecosystem, but you’re also supporting small businessmen – and, by the way, they are all male, I’m not just using that term, at least the ones participating in this season are all fishermen – are really important for our seacoasts, not only economically but from a culture point of view. A working port is radically different from one that’s just set up for us tourists. And it makes all the difference in the world, but they can’t stay a working port if they’re being put out of business by the giant fishing fleets from Japan or wherever they’re from.

So we’re helping them stay there, which is helping the port stay, which is helping New Hampshire’s Seacoast stay interesting, as well as economically viable. And you get good fish.

And basically everybody’s connected to everybody.

Everybody’s connected to everybody, and we’ll all join hands and sing “Kumbaya” and then have dinner.

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