DEM’s Shellfish Regulation Reform Initiative

Shared on Behalf of the RI Department of Environmental Management

DEM’s Shellfish Regulation Reform Initiative

Through May 2014, DEM’s regulations governing marine fisheries had been comprised of twenty-one (21) separate regulations, or “Parts.” Of these, six (6) Parts addressed shellfish, totaling approximately 66 pages. They were:

  • Part IV — Shellfish;
  • Part V — Bay Scallops;
  • Part VI — Dredging for Shellfish;
  • Part VIII — Oyster Regulations;
  • Part IX — Shellfish Buyer’s License – Statutes;
  • Part XVIII — Shellfish Grounds.

Much of the regulatory provisions set forth in these 66 pages involved duplicative language, conflicting and/or inaccurate language, non-regulatory programmatic language, non-prescriptive statutory language, and references to repealed statutory provisions. The regulations were, at best, difficult to read and challenging to understand. To address these issues, DEM launched a regulatory reform initiative aimed at streamlining, correcting, and clarifying all of the marine fisheries regulations, beginning with shellfish. The initiative involved a lot of regulatory revisions, but no substantive regulatory changes.

As it turns out, one of the early recommendations that emerged from the SMP process was to improve the clarity and readability of DEM’s shellfish regulations. The timing was perfect, in that DEM had already launched its regulatory reform initiative, with shellfish as the first phase. The initiative took on enhanced meaning and purpose, thanks to the nudge from the SMP process.


On May 8, 2014, DEM completed the regulatory review process for the revised shellfish regulations and filed with the RI Secretary of State final regulatory changes. Highlights of those changes included:

  • Reduction of the shellfish regulations from six (6) separate Parts into one regulatory document addressing all shellfish species (no longer called “Parts”; the single document is now simply called “RIMFR – Shellfish”)
  • Over 60% reduction in number of pages (from 66 to 26 pages)
  • Improved section titles reflecting actual contents of each section
  • Improved table of contents, listing all section titles (prior regulations identified just one section — “Regulations” — covering the entire document, making it impossible for the reader to navigate to a specific topic)
  • Reduction of long sections covering multiple topics into shorter, more concise paragraphs addressing single topics.
  • Removal of non-prescriptive statutory language (prior regulations included all statutory provisions authorizing the Director to enact regulations on various issues; placing such enabling authority into regulations yielded no information of value)
  • Removal of repealed and/or obsolete language;
  • Removal of penalty provisions and specific monetary amounts for violations; replaced with a general penalty and appeal provision (many of the penalties and/or monetary amounts for violations were drawn from obsolete statutes and were thus inaccurate; the authority for assessing penalties for violations of DEM marine fishery regulations lies with DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement , which utilizes a separate set of regulations for the exercise of that authority;
  • Enhance flow, readability, and clarity.

The new, streamlined shellfish regulations can be found on DEM’s Marine Fisheries website here!