Town fishery program in the works

Discover how two women in Kittery, Maine started a community sustainable fisheries’ program, in which people are able to sign up in advance for fishing or lobster catch.

by Deborah McDermott, Seacoastonline

KITTERY, Maine — Two local women take pride in saying they’re up to something fishy.

Starting next week, Amy Richards and Marcia Gibbons are set to launch the Kittery/Portsmouth Community Sustainable Fishery program, in which people will be able to sign up in advance for “shares” in fishing catch or “credits” for lobster. The program is one of the first of its kind offered in the Seacoast area.
The first eight-week share period begins next week.

“We all should understand where our food’s coming from,” Richards said. “Sustainability matters to me. That’s what it’s really all about.”

The pair has enlisted Eliot fisherman Dennis Robillard, who fishes out of Portsmouth and Gloucester, Mass., and Kittery lobsterman Steve Lawrence to provide the bounty that will comprise the shares.

The nuts and bolts of the fish share program are fairly straightforward, and are not dissimilar to the Community Supported Agriculture shares that it mirrors. Like a CSA, customers pay for shares up front, so fishermen have the money in advance to invest in their boats, then customers get the shares each week.

For a fish share, people pay $192 for a full share or $96 for a half share for an eight-week period and receive two pounds or one pound, respectively, of fresh fish fillets a week. The type of fish can and will change from week to week depending on the catch.

The lobster program is run slightly differently. Those interested in this program will pay up front for a set number of lobsters at an as-yet-to-be-determined price per pound. Then over the course of the eight weeks, customers can go to Lawrence’s Kittery wharf and pick up lobsters when needed.

“It’s a win-win for me,” Lawrence said. “I think it’s a great idea. I always like to help out the community.”

Richards and Gibbons said the idea for the local program came out of a lecture series on sustainable fisheries held at their church, the First Congregational Church of Kittery Point, last fall. On the last night, someone from a CSF in Rockland, Maine spoke.

“I’m very familiar with CSAs because we came to Kittery from Madison, Wis., two years ago,” Richards said. “I thought it would be a great thing for members of the church to do.”

Gibbons is a member of the Interfaith Sustainability Team, a consortium of Seacoast church members “who are very interested in becoming more green and taking care of this planet,” she said.

The pair brought both their interests to bear in starting the CSF. Robinson said she had a lot to learn to get it off the ground but received help from others involved in CSFs across the country who came to Portsmouth recently for a seminar on such programs.

“You have to develop a price structure, a share structure, that sort of thing,” she said, adding she had to get the OK from the Maine Department of Marine Resources because although Robillard lives in Maine, he fishes elsewhere. “After the seminar, we started formulating ideas. I began to feel comfortable about how we could put this together.”

The CSF is open to anyone in the Seacoast. So far, the two women have 14 subscribers, and they are hoping to get as many as 25. The last day to sign up is Monday, July 16, and fish shares will be delivered to the Kittery congregational church starting July 19. Robillard and Lawrence will also attend a meet and greet event that night at 6 p.m., not only for shareholders but for anyone who wants to learn more about the program.

The women said, depending on interest, they’d like the program to continue through the winter. Robillard said he will supply shares for one to 100 people. “I don’t think interest is going to drop off in winter,” he said “It’s hard for us to sell something we haven’t experienced. But I think once people see the value, they’ll come back and, with word of mouth, we’ll get new people.”

For information on the CSF, e-mail Richards at [email protected] or Gibbons at [email protected].

This article orginally appeared in Seacoastonline.