Establishing Baseline Socioeconomic Indicators and Social Impact Analysis for the New Hampshire Commercial Ground Fishing Community

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Kelly Giraud Cullen UNH - Department of Natural Resources & the Environment Principal Investigator
Charles French UNH - Cooperative Extension Associate Investigator
Joshua Wiersma Northeast Fishery Sector XI, XII Collaborator

Students Involved:

Brittany Sinclair UNH - Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

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.

Project Description

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.

A number of important items came to light over the summer:
1)     Fishing vessels originating from New Hampshire had approximately the same number of trips as the fishing vessels originating from Maine, yet the average vessel size in Maine is substantially larger. In 2009, the revenues from landed fish in Maine were 16 times more than that of N.H. ( Next year, N.H. vessels are estimated to pay about the same amount for on-board observers as those from Maine despite the significant difference in revenues. Add to that, since ACE inception in 2010, Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) permits have been sold out of state at a ratio of 3 to 1 from what is sold in N.H. from out of state.
2)     There are a few socio-economic studies being conducted, but permit holders who have sold their ACE permits and their crews have not been specifically targeted (or have been missed altogether).
3)     Socio-economic studies that have been used in the past have been highly structured, leaving little room for respondent insights.
Goals of this study
1.     Forecast the future participation of the fishing fleet in Sectors XI and XII based on a proven fishing vessel cost model.
2.     Interview former multi-species ACE holders to get a better understanding of why they left the industry.
3.     Ask current permit holders basic, open-ended questions, such as: “Do you think stocks of your target fish have changed? If so, how?” and, “If you were to design a policy aimed to increase the stock levels of the ground fish in the region, what would you do?”
Details of the Fishing Vessel Cost Model
The fishing vessel cost model outlined by Jin (2008) will be used to estimate fishing vessel costs based on 2010-2011 fishing year data. The model uses data from the mandatory Vessel Trip Reports, completed by all multi-species vessels within Sectors XI and XII (the N.H. Sectors). In addition, publically available fixed costs data is available from the Northeast Fishery Science Center’s Social Sciences Branch. Jin’s model is based on the Days at Sea (DAS) program, so it will be updated to better fit the Sector program, and more specific data from the NE Sectors XI and XII data bank may be used.
Specific deliverables
·         Presentation and final report to the Board and Members of Sectors XI and XII
o    All members of the fishing community will be welcome to attend.
·         Online materials made available to the public
o    An executive summary will be made available on UNH’s Cooperative Extension website.
o    Significant contributions to the oral history collection, “Voices From the Fisheries,” maintained by NMFS:
·         Fishing Vessel Cost Model online for fishermen wishing to calculate their own expected annual costs, so they can make better business decisions
o    An interactive website, equipped with estimated coefficients will be made available so that individual vessel operators can enter their personal information and estimate their own costs. Much like mortgage calculators on many bank websites, ACE owners can enter their individual information and obtain estimates of profitability, and projections of alternative decisions (for example, leasing ACE or selling permits outright). This information will not be saved; it is for the fishers’ information only.
·         Technical report to government officials within NMFS and the N.H. representatives
o    A forecast of the future composition of the fishery will be estimated.
o    Policy recommendations based on the economic forecast will be presented.