PORTSMOUTH, NH - The New Hampshire Fish and Lobster Festival, known locally as Fishtival, invites the community to Portsmouth's Prescott Park each September to honor, celebrate and rediscover the proud tradition of small-scale, local commercial groundfishing in New Hampshire and its valuable contribution to our local food system, local economy and local culture. Now, the mission continues with the announcement of small grants available from the proceeds of the 2013 event.
Grants are available in amounts from $200 to $1,500 to an event, cause, campaign or organization that helps further the mission, vision and values of the N.H. Fish and Lobster Festival, increasing public support of the region's small-boat local fishing industry. The application deadline is Friday, March 14. To apply, visit www.fishtival.org.
For five years, Fishtival has attracted thousands of locals and visitors from all walks of life to taste locally landed species, explore the decks of local fishing boats, meet fishermen, play games, and learn more about the state of the fishing industry. The event is free and open to all, in the hopes of building a more engaged, aware and informed community. Fishtival purposefully builds bridges among all who have a stake in a healthy fishery, including consumers, markets, restaurants, fishermen, cultural and environmental organizations.
The impact over the past five years can be measured in several ways:
- Attendance: Nearly 20,000 people have attended the event in person.
- Awareness: Further, the message has reached many thousands more through print, television, radio and social media coverage. Different facets of the festival—boat tours, underutilized species, a cook-off contest, campaigns for the NH Seafood Fresh and Local brand—attracts public interest in the fishing industry that extends far beyond the event itself.
- Familiarity: The event serves as an annual attraction in the local food/economy movement and is part of the Seacoast’s popular festival scene.
- Partnerships: Longstanding local and regional partners return year after year to participate and help promote the message, including the participating fishermen, chefs and environmental educators. Most recently, the uniquely local, grassroots festival drew international attention when it helped launch Slow Food’s international “Slow Fish” campaign, focusing on artisanal fishing, neglected fish species, and the state of the sea’s resources.
- Relationships: Although only a four-hour event held once a year, the community bridge-building that takes place in the course of planning Fishtival has facilitated new ideas among participants, including an effort by the local chapter of Chef’s Collaborative to make more year-round connections between local chefs and the local fishing industry.
- Education: As a result of all of the above, combined with the efforts of many others throughout our community, we see greater awareness of the status of fish stocks, the concept of “seasonality” when it comes to local fish, and the value of the small-boat fishery in finding sustainable solutions.
- Shifting practices: Moreover, we see a customer base responding to new efforts such as off-the-boat sales and the subscription-based Community Supported Fishery. Fishtival helped lay the groundwork by increasing broader citizen awareness of our local fishery, which had previously been disconnected from the local economy and food system due to groundfish being shipped out of state and not dispersed on local shores.
Fishtival organizers look forward to hearing from any event, cause, campaign or organization that seeks to continue this good work and increase public support of our small-boat local fishing industry in 2014. Proceeds will be distributed by April 1.
Seacoast Local and Prescott Park Arts Festival co-host the N.H. Fish and Lobster Festival in collaboration with local fishermen through N.H. Sectors, Granite State FISH and more, as well as local food advocates including Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, NH Seafood Fresh and Local and UNH Slow Food.
Smuttynose Brewing Company, the Seacoast’s uniquely local and award-winning craft brewery, is the festival's annual sponsor.
Grant funding is provided by UNH Sea Grant. Generous donations are also provided by Seacoast Growers’ Association, Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative, N.H. Community Seafood, and numerous fishing vessels. In-kind support is provided by participating restaurants and educational non-profits, including Blue Ocean Society, Seacoast Science Center, Strawbery Banke Museum, Slow Food Seacoast, Seacoast Eat Local, and UNH Marine Docents, among others.
More information about the festival is available at www.fishtival.org. To find out more information about the ongoing movement to support New Hampshire's local fishing industry, visit www.nhseafood.com.