Establishing Baseline Socioeconomic Indicators and Social Impact Analysis for the New Hampshire Commercial Ground Fishing Community
2013 Impact and Accomplishments
N.H. restaurants serve dogfish and educate customers based on feedback from consumer preference surveys
RELEVANCE: Commercial fishermen and those associated with the seafood industry are seeking ways to identify and create niche markets for local seafood in N.H. to sustain the few remaining groundfishermen in the state.
RESPONSE: In 2013, N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers conducted consumer preference surveys at seafood tastings and other events to help promote awareness of local seafood, including underutilized species, and highlight the connection to the N.H. commercial fishing industry.
RESULTS: Due to the attention drawn to underutilized seafood species — dogfish, in particular — three restaurants in Portsmouth, N.H. now serve dogfish to their customers. Researchers also helped prepare educational material for restaurant staff to explain to them the importance of eating locally landed and sustainably caught seafood species, allowing restaurant staff to educate their customers about local seafood and potentially increase demand for underutilized species.
RECAP: N.H. Sea Grant-funded research and associated educational events and materials have helped spread awareness about local seafood and created a small but important market in restaurants that now serve dogfish and help support N.H. groundfishermen.
Research indicates immediate need for seafood niche market development to help N.H. groundfishermen remain in business
The N.H. groundfishing fleet, facing a change in management policies, has declined from 37 individuals in 2009 to seven in 2013. With funding provided by a N.H. Sea Grant development grant, researchers sought to establish baseline socioeconomic indicators and social impact analysis for the groundfishing fleet. They conducted interviews with current and past operators of groundfishing vessels, asking them questions about management policies and their likelihood of remaining in the commercial fishing industry. Results of this study served as the basis for a UNH student’s master’s thesis in 2013 and indicated that there will likely be no groundfishing activity in the state within two years unless niche markets and distribution chains are identified or created. The feedback from these interviews will help encourage those involved in marketing local seafood to move quickly in identifying new markets to preserve N.H.’s groundfishing fleet.
Brochure based on survey results helps inform the public about local and underutilized seafood species
Commercial fishermen are seeking ways to market their catch locally to decrease the costs associated with seafood distribution and to obtain a stable, fair price for their catch. However, the majority of groundfish currently caught in New England waters consist of underutilized species that are plentiful but relatively unknown by the public. N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers conducted consumer preference surveys and blind taste tests that featured underutilized species like dogfish to determine if the public would be receptive to eating and purchasing these species. In 2013, results from these surveys were published in a tri-fold brochure and 2,000 copies were distributed at farmer’s markets, seafood festivals, fish markets and through UNH Cooperative Extension agents. This brochure will help inform the public about the importance of eating local and underutilized species, the types of species available and how purchasing them supports N.H. fishermen.
Consumer feedback leads to rebranding of lesser-known seafood species
Facing changing federal regulations and an influx of low-cost, imported seafood, commercial fishermen are seeking ways to market underutilized local seafood species—those that are plentiful but not well-known by the public. N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers organized three underutilized seafood tasting events, including a commercial fishing season kickoff event and two special restaurant tastings. Blind taste tests were conducted at each venue to assess consumer receptiveness to various seafood products and species. Results indicated that consumers were hesitant to try certain species like dogfish and wolffish, in part due to their names or their unfamiliarity with the species. Based on feedback from these tastings, researchers collaborated with NHSG extension to rebrand underutilized seafood species as “underloved” species — a term that is easier to remember and encourages consumers to view species such as redfish, hake, softshell lobster, monkfish and dogfish in a more positive light. This rebranding effort will help consumers gain familiarity with local seafood options and potentially help create a market for underloved species to support N.H. commercial fishermen.
We would like to request Program Development Funds to conduct a small scale study. After gaining cooperation from the multi-species fishing community and NMFS, it seems advantageous to pursue this important research.