The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has issued a new guidance document that synthesizes the priority interests of the State with regard to the conservation and management of marine fisheries. The report, Principles & Policies Governing Marine Fisheries Management in Rhode Island, was developed primarily to guide and support DEM’s programs and activities pertaining to marine fisheries, but also broadly addresses all key issues associated with marine fisheries management in Rhode Island. This is the first document of its kind issued by DEM.

The impetus for this document emerged over the course of DEM Director Janet Coit’s first two years as Director, as she discussed and reviewed various fishery management issues with staff, fishermen, and other stakeholders. Sensing the need for a set of guiding principles and policies that would help to identify and galvanize DEM’s collective efforts related to marine fisheries, Director Coit and her staff undertook the development of a single, unifying vision that captures the breadth of the Department’s roles and responsibilities regarding marine fisheries management.

“Rhode Island’s fisheries and other living marine resources are among our most valuable natural assets and an important part of the heritage and culture of the Ocean State,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Our fisheries continue to sustain us, as a source of food, recreation, and employment, and warrant our continued strong support, sound stewardship, and commitment to improve management and to ensure healthy sustainable resources.”

Based on the premise that marine fishery resources are public trust resources subject to state and federal stewardship, the document sets forth general guiding principles and policies that address the need to rebuild depleted stocks, restore degraded habitats and use sound science to assess stock status and establish sustainable harvest levels. The document also touches upon policies related to the use of the State’s marine fishery resources by recreational and commercial fishermen, seafood consumers, and the fishing and seafood industries, and addresses key concepts associated with the sound governance of the State’s marine fishery resources.

“With the assistance of staff, I have developed this document as a building block to help secure and grow our interests in healthy and productive marine fisheries,” Director Coit noted. “I view the document as one that can and should evolve over time, as we continue to evaluate and clarify our priorities via discussions with stakeholders and interactions with the General Assembly. I welcome feedback on the document, and look forward to maintaining an open dialogue with, and continuing to support the interests of, the many Rhode Islanders who eat, catch, benefit from, and care about our marine fishery resources.”

The document and an accompanying cover letter are available on DEM’s website at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/policy.pdf.

The report was initially released at a February 27th hearing of the Rhode Island Senate’s Special Task Force on Fisheries. DEM Director Coit and her staff testified at the hearing on Current Trends and Recent Highlights Pertaining to the RI Fishing Industry. Among the points made was the value of the commercial fishery industry to Rhode Island, totaling more than $22 million in state tax revenue and supporting 4,968 jobs. The power point presentation that accompanied DEM’s testimony is available on DEM’s website at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/tskfrc.ppt.

Logo courtesy Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

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