Seacoast Local helped launch N.H. Fish and Lobster Festival in 2009 as one of the nation’s pioneering events to re-direct community attention to local fisheries as part of the buy local/ eat local movement. While both fish stocks and fishing communities are now under greater pressure than ever, small-scale and community-based fishing is increasingly seen as the likeliest source of a long-term solution that works for all stakeholders. N.H. Fish and Lobster Festival, known as Fishtival, aimed to be a fun, informative and delicious event where the Seacoast community could gather to honor, celebrate, and rediscover the proud tradition of these small-scale, local commercial ground-fishing boats in New Hampshire while also educating the community about the future of this public resource and its role in our local food system, local economy and local culture.
- Attendance: Almost 4,000 people attended annually for each of the five years, as measured by the number of tasting tickets sold.
- Awareness: A non-attending audience of tens of thousands was reached through print, television, radio and social media coverage related to the event. Selecting different facets of the festival to highlight each year—boat tours, underutilized species, live cook-off contest, campaigns for the NH Seafood Fresh and Local brand—induces continued media interest and public awareness that extends far beyond visitors or the event itself.
- Familiarity: The event is often referenced throughout the year as a landmark event in the local food/economy movement and as part of the Seacoast’s festival scene
- Partnerships: Longstanding local and regional partners return annually to participate and help promote the message. In 2013, the uniquely local, grassroots festival drew international attention when it became the site of the first-ever event in Slow Food’s international “Slow Fish” campaign, which ties together like-minded communities like ours from around the globe where people value artisanal fishing, neglected fish species, and the state of the sea’s resources.
- Relationships: Although only a four-hour event once a year, the community bridge-building that took place in the course of planning Fishtival seeded 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’ve seen 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 that responded to new efforts such as off-the-boat sales and the subscription-based Community Supported Fishery. Fishtival helped lay the groundwork by increasing broad citizen awareness of the story of our local fishery, which had previously been disconnected from the local food movement due to so much ground fish being shipped out of state and not dispersed on local shores.
Learn more at www.fishtival.org.