Portsmouth’s fourth annual ‘Fishtival’ celebrates local seafood
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
This past Saturday, local fishermen and tenders from the surrounding area gathered in Prescott Park in Portsmouth, in celebration of 400 years of local seafood. In its fourth year, the “Fishtival,” New Hampshire’s Fish and Lobster Festival, was aimed at bringing together fishermen and the community, as well as educating patrons on the origins of their beloved seafood.
Throughout the afternoon, the Fishtival incorporated locally sourced food and emphasized the idea of supporting local fishermen.
Attendees could touch and feel fresh-caught marine life, chat with fishermen, learn about local supporting organizations, and for a small fee, taste seafood cooked by local chefs. Food included the lobster ravioli by the Portsmouth Lobster Company, a company created by lobstermen to ensure that, in a world where 90 percent of seafood comes from overseas, local seafood stays local.
At the heart of the Fishtival was the UNH Marine Docents, an extended outreach program of the university. Its purpose, among other things, was to educate the community on the different aspects of marine life.
Amy Richards, a docent of the local community, said that she believed the program has been nothing but positive.
“It’s been a wonderful, eye-opening, door-opening experience,” Richards said.
Dari Ward, the extension program associate, touched on the extensive work that the Marine Docents do during the Fishtival to promote marine awareness.
“(Our volunteers) come and they help out. We have a lobster table, a fish printing table…a touch tank table…(and) commercial boat tours…where our volunteers can share their knowledge,” Ward said.
The program’s staff is volunteer-based, trained for six months and located off-campus. This, Ward explained, has made student involvement in the program harder.
At UNH, the volunteers of the program hold Know The Coast Day where students will have a chance to get involved. This year’s event is scheduled for Oct. 20 and is open to the general public.
The UNH Marine Docents are involved and connected with the Sea Grants and marine education. Their main job is to be liaisons between education and research and the Seacoast itself, according to Richards.
This is where Sarah VanHorn, UNH super-senior and self-proclaimed ocean lover, was able to get her funding to start a research study of her own, and it was her reason for being at Fishtival, she said. She was tending to her own stand, educating all who passed by the table on her excursions and research this past summer in the greater seacoast area. VanHorn was the recipient of the New Hampshire Sea Grant.
“(They) asked me to write biographies for all the professional fishermen in New Hampshire,” she said.
She spent the summer and part of this fall aboard approximately 15 commercial New Hampshire fishing boats and was able to document the fishermen’s day-to-day lives firsthand.
“Some days she would just sleep on there so that when they would leave (at 3 or 4) in the morning, she would already be on there,” her mother, Christina VanHorn, said.
To accompany her trips, Sarah took a digital camera to photograph the fishermen and wildlife. Recently, she was featured on UNH Today and the UNH website’s homepage.
“I’ve been blogging about it and trying to enlighten the general public about it and hopefully helping them to realize what’s actually happening,” she said.
Her accounts and photos can all be found on her blog, Fishhues at www.seavanhorn.wordpress.com.
“(It was) such a great experience to get an inside look at an industry that’s pretty much entirely unknown to the Seacoast,” VanHorn said.
International organization Slow Food was in attendance as well, representing both the UNH and Seacoast chapters.
Slow Food Seacoast Outreach Coordinator Amy Pollard explained the organization’s importance and impact. She said that in June 2006, there was a tremendous increase in the public wanting to know where its food comes from. This increase in interest helped to raise money to begin publishing Seacoast Harvest, a publication of Seacoast Eat Local.
“Its first year, it was only two pages,” Pollard said.
The purpose of the publication is to help citizens learn about sustainable farmers, local farmers market and any information in that field. The publication can be found at UNH, as well.