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Measuring around 18 miles long, New Hampshire has the smallest shoreline of all coastal states. But for about 400 years, it’s been enough to support small boat fishermen in the Seacoast region. They make their livings cruising New England’s waters for cod, lobster, shrimp and other stocks.For decades, the industry’s been challenged by declining populations of fish and shellfish, as well as changing federal regulations. As of 2010, New England fishermen are allowed to catch a set poundage of fish based on their take over a 10-year span. New Hampshire fishermen argue this change has made the cost of working outpace profits, forced many small boats out of business, and discouraged new people from entering the industry. No matter the cause, figures from the US Census Bureau clearly show an industry in decline. In Portsmouth, the Seacoast’s main city, the Census Bureau reports only 0.2 percent of residents work in the “Farming, fishing and forestry occupations” category. That’s compared to 0.6 percent in 2000. A number of New Hampshire fishermen, politicians, and historians believe that without change, the state’s small boat fishing industry is heading toward extinction.Summary provided by StateImpact NH

Lead Sinkers Bill Heads to the House

Flkr Creative Commons / KeithCarver

For some Granite Staters the loon represents the state in a very emotional way, and supporters of the bird were out in force on Tuesday, defending a bill that would ban lead fishing gear. The bill was being heard by the House Fish and Game Committee, and attendees over-flowed out the door of a double capacity hearing room. 

New Hampshire was the first state in the nation to ban some lead fishing gear in 2000, but lead hooks and sinkers over a certain size are still legal.

According to the Loon Preservation Committee half of the birds that they find dead have been killed by lead poisoning. The executive director of the Committee, Harry Vogel, told house lawmakers that if it weren’t for lead, the state would be farther along in rebuilding its loon population.

"I feel a little bit like we’re running this race, and after 37 years we’re still only half-way to the finish line," says Vogels, "We’re running as hard as we can, but we’re going backwards."

Loon supporters weren't the only ones in the room, however. Bass fishermen and Fish and Game stepped up to voice their opposition to the bill, saying it would be expensive for fishermen and gear shops, and there’s not enough hard science on loon mortality to prove the ban would be a benefit.

The executive director of Fish and Game Glenn Normandeau told the committee that he was afraid the bill would be contentious, but not advance the goal of increasing the loon population.

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