Help for New Hampshire Fishermen
Two economic development corporations partner to provide funding for Harbor Porpoise Protection Project
Portsmouth, N. H.—November 27, 2012 Coastal Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) and Regional Economic Development Center of Southern New Hampshire (REDC) recently combined efforts to provide a total of $58,970 in grant funding to the New Hampshire commercial groundfish fishing industry to help preserve harbor porpoise. The XI and XII Northeast Fisheries Sectors, fishing cooperatives whose membership includes 36 N.H.-based commercial fishing boats, will use the money to purchase electronic acoustic deterrent devices known as “pingers”. Pingers are attached to fishing nets and emit a high frequency sound that scares harbor porpoise away from gillnet gear; thereby helping to prevent entanglement.
The federal government was set to impose severe restrictions on N.H. commercial gillnet fishermen as a result of too many harbor porpoise entanglements. Instead, fishermen worked together to submit a congressionally-supported proposal that successfully altered the timing of the restrictions from fall 2012 to spring 2013. The proposal showed more harbor porpoise would be protected by closing in the winter months rather than maintaining a fall closure. To further their effort to conserve harbor porpoise, fishermen have committed to more selective fishing practices, in part through the use of new light emitting diode (LED) technology pingers, which were purchased through this funding.
Dr. Joshua Wiersma, manager of both N.H.-based sectors, noted that “The new LED pingers will help fishermen and regulatory authorities who test pinger functionality to know instantly whether pingers were working or not—a severe problem associated with the old pinger technology. The new pingers provide us with absolute certainty that they’re working, making it much easier to use and maintain over time.” Wiersma also said, “This funding allowed us to purchase 800 new pingers to be used immediately, which completely overhauls our fleet. It also allowed us to partner with the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund to help subsidize the purchase of an additional 3,000 pingers that will be distributed to both N.H. and Massachusetts fishermen over time—making us part of the largest harbor porpoise conservation program in the world.”
The funding was obtained by CEDC and REDC through various means, but primarily as part of a $473,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Block Grant Program. A total of $417,585 of that funding had previously been used as financing for the purchase of two federal multi-species fishing permits, which are now owned by the N.H.-based Sector and used by Sector members.