Rhode Island Shellfish Signs
Shared on behalf of the RI Shellfish Management Plan Team.
Rhode Island Shellfish Signs
Through the SMP process, some have raised concerns over the status of shellfish signs in the state, specifically those signs which delineate open and closed waters based on water quality conditions. There are two issues regarding signs: 1) The presence/absence and condition of existing signs in designated locations, and 2) The possibility of collecting GPS coordinates for sign locations as an additional descriptor for resource users. A team at DEM has been working in the field since the spring to address these concerns.
1) Condition of signs – The DEM Office of Water Resources (OWR), in coordination with DEM Enforcement and to some degree DEM Fish and Wildlife, has the task of assessing and maintaining shellfish signs indicating water quality closures. These represent the majority of shellfish signs that stakeholders encounter, with another small percentage indicating Shellfish Management Areas (these are maintained by Fish and Wildlife). Each year, OWR, with help from field reports by Enforcement personnel, assess the condition (present, absent, damaged) of some 60+ signs in the state. Depending on staff time, weather conditions, and accessibility, OWR staff will conduct field maintenance on damaged/missing signs in the spring/summer of every year. In 2013, an assessment report of signs showed various signs needing to be replaced or repaired – OWR has been in the field since spring, using their existing stockpile to replace/repair these signs. While much progress has been made this year and field work continues, it is important to note that sign maintenance is an on-going, yearly process, as sign vandalism, stealing, obscuring from overgrown vegetation, etc. is common, and often signs go missing soon after they are replaced. Many signs are not accessible by land, requiring access by vessel only. As of July 2014, all range markers accessible by land have been visited and repaired/replaced as needed, and GPS coordinates were taken for each location. With continued collaboration and reliance on DEM Enforcement in the field, OWR aims to have all signs replaced this year. For those who wish to see the DEM Sign Assessment report, please contact Cindy Hannus at DEM (Cindy.Hannus@dem.ri.gov).
2) GPS Coordinates for Signs – Several stakeholders in the SMP process over the last year have suggested that DEM collect and advertise GPS coordinates for shellfish signs, along-side the currently used landmark descriptions for their locations. While most commercial shellfishermen have and use GPS units, there remains a legal issue in using coordinates for locations for regulatory purposes that are not collected by a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS). Using a professional service like this is very costly and laborious, but can help ensure accuracy. Through numerous discussions between DEM departments, it was decided in April of this year that GPS coordinates would be collected using professional equipment (i.e. high location accuracy) by DEM’s GIS and mapping expert over the summer months. Currently, about 33 percent of the sign locations have been assessed and GPS coordinates taken; the remaining sites (those accessible only by boat) are being visited over the next two months through coordination with F&W and others. The GPS coordinates will be included in 2015 regulations as a compliment and not in replacement of the current landmark descriptions.