The Nature Conservancy and New Hampshire Fishermen Announce Partnership Aimed at Rebuilding Groundfish Populations

Innovative new partnership seeks to improve fisheries in the Gulf of Maine and sustain New Hampshire’s struggling ground fishing fleet.

Portsmouth, NH | June 13, 2013

The New Hampshire Fisheries Sectors and The Nature Conservancy today announced an innovative new partnership that seeks to improve fisheries in the Gulf of Maine and sustain New Hampshire’s struggling ground fishing fleet. 

The two organizations recently worked together to complete the purchase of two groundfish permits by the Conservancy.  The allowable catch, or “quota”, associated with the permits will be made available to New Hampshire fishermen, many of whom are struggling under a new fisheries management system and significant reductions in the availability of prized species like cod. 

The purchase of the New Hampshire permits builds upon the successful Community Permit Bank initiative begun in Port Clyde, Maine in 2009.  Through this program, The Conservancy leases the quota to fishermen at favorable rates, and underwrites research that provides scientists, fishing communities and managers important information on practices and gear configurations that will minimize bycatch and reduce impacts on sensitive marine habitats.  Through the partnership announced today, the Conservancy and local fishermen hope to bring this successful model to New Hampshire.

“Both The Nature Conservancy and our fishing industry partners are committed to rebuilding groundfish populations in the Gulf of Maine,” said Geoff Smith, Gulf of Maine program director at the Nature Conservancy. “Our experience has shown that working directly with fishermen developing more selective gear and sustainable fishing practices gives us the best chance for success.”

“The development of this partnership has both short and long term benefits,” said Josh Wiersma, New Hampshire Fisheries Sectors Manager.  “In the short term, the quota from these permits will help fishermen and our crews stay above water in this harsh climate; and in the long run, the research carried out through these projects should help to improve local fish stocks and fishing practices. Working with The Nature Conservancy means that the permits and associated catch will remain here in New Hampshire supporting small businesses and traditional fishing ports.” 

Recent federal reductions in groundfish quotas due to declining fish populations have meant that some New Hampshire fishermen are no longer able to sustain their livelihood, forcing them to sell their permits.  To help reverse this trend, a principal goal of this new partnership is to attempt to keep these valuable permits in New Hampshire in order to ensure long-term access to the fishery and help sustain the state’s fishing industry.

“Once I made the difficult decision to sell my permits, figuring out a way to keep them here in New Hampshire became a priority for me” said New Hampshire fisherman Peter Kendall.  “I had other offers, but decided to work with The Nature Conservancy because they are committed to collaborating with New Hampshire fishermen while giving the sector a way to anchor these permits in the community for the long-term.” 

“It’s tough to maintain a local fishing industry without locally held fishing permits,” said Mark Zankel, the Conservancy’s New Hampshire state director.  “We are excited to roll up our sleeves and work with New Hampshire fishermen on solutions  that will help improve the health of the Gulf of Maine and sustain an industry that has been part of New Hampshire’s seacoast community for more than 400 years.”  

“The New Hampshire groundfish industry is in trouble,” said Jamie Hayward a local fisherman.  “We are not going to bring it back unless we change some of what we do.  Innovative solutions like this partnership with The Nature Conservancy help our businesses survive, and ensure that the fish will be there in the future.”

Fishermen in New Hampshire have also been working on other ideas to help sustain the local fishing economy.  Recently, more than a dozen local fishermen and crew announced the creation of an innovative type of community supported fishery – NH Community Seafood.  This program is structured as a “multi-stakeholder cooperative, where residents can purchase shares which guarantees delivery of local, freshly caught fish providing fisherman with access to new markets--and they can also directly invest in this organization by purchasing it’s stock, to become part-owner alongside commercial fishermen.

“The New Hampshire fishing industry needs innovative approaches such as permit banks and community supported fisheries to survive,” according to Josh Wiersma.  “Building partnerships such as the one announced today with The Nature Conservancy, and opening new markets for local fisherman are essential in securing the future of the industry in New Hampshire.” 


The New Hampshire Fisheries Sector is a 501(c)(5) corporation organized for the purpose of forming a sector of member fishermen to receive an aggregate allocation of fishing privileges to be harvested by its members.  The sector is dedicated to: (1) Encouraging responsible fishing methods and practices in order to conserve the fishery and other environmental resources; (2) Advancing and ensuring the survival of sustainable fisheries; and (3) Providing opportunities for economically practical and viable entry to and exit from the relevant fisheries.

NH Community Seafood provides New Hampshire consumers with an alternative market for locally harvested seafood, as well as establishes a connection between consumers and the local fishermen. In addition, NH Community Seafood hopes to provide fishermen with a fair alternative to traditional auctions for all of the species of fish that they harvest. More information can be found at

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Jim O'Brien
Director of External Affairs
The Nature Conservancy in NH
22 Bridge Street, 4th Floor
Concord, NH 03301

Josh Wiersma
NH Fishing Sector Manager

Related Links

  • Permit Banks - A White Paper: A Strategy for Viable and Sustainable Fisheries. See how collaborating with fishermen will help people and nature in the Gulf of Maine.
  • Oyster Restoration - See how restoring oyster reefs will help turn the tide in Great Bay.
  • Learn how the Conservancy's working to protect and conserve the Gulf of Maine.


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