Fishermen Teach The Public
About Their Trade With Help From NH Sea Grant
Contact: Kirsten Weir
NH Sea Grant
Oct. 12, 2005
DURHAM, N.H. -- Dressed in orange rubber pants and a late-summer
tan, Joe Jurek hauled up his net and dumped a pile of shimmering
silver herring onto the deck of his boat, Mystique Lady. “Look,
we got some dogs!” he said and grinned as he pulled one of
the foot-long sharks from among the mass of herring.
Jurek was demonstrating his profession as part of a workshop organized
by NH Sea Grant Extension specialists Pingguo He and Ken LaValley
and Hampton fisherman David Goethel. He and LaValley work to generate
cooperation among commercial fishermen, fisheries scientists and
fisheries managers. They spend much of their time working with fishermen
to improve gear and promote smart, safe fishing practices. On the
flip side, they also aim to inform the public about commercial fisheries.
To that end, they devised a fishing gear workshop that was held
in late August. They plan to make it an annual event.
Fishing regulation is a complicated subject that today’s commercial
fishermen must understand inside and out. But regulators and conservationists
don’t always have an equivalent understanding of the challenges
that fishermen face on the water. How does a gillnet differ from
a trawl net? What effects do the different gear types have on the
underwater environment? How do fishermen maintain their equipment
to comply with regulations?
To help answer such questions, He and Goethel recruited three other
local fishermen to explain the ins and outs of their profession.
The workshop drew a wide audience that included congressional staffers,
members of conservation organizations and volunteer groups, and
employees of the Coast Guard, NH Fish and Game, and NOAA’s
National Marine Fisheries Service.
The three-day event began on dry land, with a day-long introduction
that touched on fish behavior, fishing gear and gear improvements
that aid conservation efforts. “This gave me a better understanding
of the New Hampshire fishery,” Clare McBane, a marine biologist
for NH Fish and Game, said after the first day. “Having actual
fishermen as the instructors was a great idea.”
During the next two days, the participants headed out to sea to
witness the gear in action. Half of the students took off on gillnetters,
while the other half boarded trawlers, including Jurek’s Mystique
Lady. He enthusiastically demonstrated his gear, showing how he
calibrates his net to sweep through the water at just the right
depth to target herring. If he aimed too high he might miss valuable
herring, he explained; if he hit too low, he could scoop up lots
of accidental catch, known as by-catch. Jurek showed how a seemingly
small adjustment to his gear dramatically reduced the dogfish, flounder
and other by-catch in the net.
Workshop participants were excited to get a firsthand look at the
often-complex fishing process. “The fishing industry plays
a huge role in New Hampshire’s economic health and is also
a key part of the heritage and culture of our state,” said
Matt Leahy, a workshop participant and project director for U.S.
Senator Judd Gregg. “In addition to learning about the technical
aspects of the industry, such as fishing gear, Senator Gregg also
wanted me to meet directly with members of the fishing community
to better understand their concerns and issues. The workshop was
a great way to accomplish these goals.”