A special thank to RI Shellfish Management Plan publication contributors.

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On behalf of the SMP Team, we’d like to thank you for a successful and fun Final Event Celebration!

On Nov.17th, many gathered at the URI Bay Campus to celebrate the newly-released R.I. Shellfish Management Plan (affectionately called the SMP), a hallmark effort to improve management and science around shellfish in the state. With over 100 people in attendance, including Governor Lincoln Chafee, Senator Sosnowski, and dignitaries from our state agencies and universities, as well as the valuable presence of industry groups and citizens alike, it was an event to remember. The event was intended to be celebratory, to appreciate the monumental efforts of many individuals and groups who shaped the plan and its management and science recommendations. Good vibes and words were shared by all.

But one thing was missing from the festivities: A proper thank you to a few individuals who really were the glue behind the SMP. Unfortunately, in an attempt to keep comments brief and allow plenty of time to mingle and share kind words, we did not properly acknowledge these few individuals – As a backdrop, it is important to emphasize that behind the scenes, almost weekly for the last two years, have been five people who have helped sort through what we hear, what issues arise, what needs surface, and what actions should be taken. These individuals were Dale Leavitt (RWU), Jeff Mercer (DEM), Dave Beutel (CRMC), Monique LaFrance (GSO) and Jen McCann (CRC/RI SG). What some may not realize, which I want to impress upon you all now, is that without these folks, the SMP and all its early successes would not have happened.

It was Dale’s knowledge, experience and ability to see opportunity in any concern or issue that helped bring this SMP to life, infusing science and real-world application which lent validity, perspective, and integrity to the process and outcomes. Jeff has offered intense time and efforts on the SMP, showing industry that DEM has been listening and translating tough policies and decisions.—Jeff’s ability to work across multiple sectors of the shellfish community has brought tangible benefits to management and science.—Dave’s thoroughness in assuring a sound aquaculture management process in this state in conjunction with his belief and willingness to reach over agency lines to collaborate on important topics, has proven fruitful; Dave has been a steady island in a sea of positive changes for aquaculture, keeping people on firm ground during tough processes.—Monique’s integral efforts throughout the SMP on work such as the use maps and critical writing, has helped ensure the outcomes make sense and are tractable. And it is through Jen’s support and sound leadership that the SMP process remained true to its principles and vision of openness and broad stakeholder involvement.

And a special thank you to those in the industry – wild harvest and aquaculture – who continue to donate their time and experience to not only the SMP process, but to management overall, lending real-world knowledge and creative thinking to make this a truly democratic process.

At the event, a few individuals were recognized and received awards for giving 110% to the SMP process. Congratulations to: Mike McGiveney, Robert Rheault, Jody King, Katie Eagan, Art Ganz, Jim Arnoux, and the Rhode Island Shellfishermen’s Association for their exceptional service and contribution to shellfish.

And shout outs to all the many who made this Plan possible – THANK YOU!

Without all these folks meeting and giving their hearts and souls these last two years, we would simply be where we started in 2013: Wanting reform but with no road to get there. So thank you SMP Team – Your energy and skills are invaluable to this state!

Please visit http://www.rismp.org/the-plan/ to view the RI Shellfish Management Plan, Version II, and associated appendices. Please remember this is a living document and we encourage your feedback and comments. In 2015, CRC/RI Sea Grant will work with DEM and CRMC to develop an Implementation Plan, a Research Agenda, and activate on some of the recommendations in the SMP. We will also review and add new information to the SMP as it becomes available and will keep you updated through this listserv. Press and the SMP video will soon be posted on the website, so check back often.

Other information on the website:

If you would like to receive a copy of Rhode Island’s Shellfish Heritage: An Ecological History, available in 2015, please send an email to: smp@etal.uri.edu

Keep up the excellent work and dedication everyone – We look forward to working with you in 2015!

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.

Results: 

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!

Public Input Sought on New State Plan to Improve Shellfish Resources

Public Input Sought on New State Plan to Improve Shellfish Resources

Plan topics include research, shellfish restoration, and industry supported activities

The public is invited to review a draft of Rhode Island’s first comprehensive set of management recommendations for shellfish resources, both wild harvest and aquaculture, located in state ocean waters, and provide comments. The review process is a key topic of the SMP Stakeholder Public Meeting scheduled for tonight, Monday, September 29, 5-7pm, Corless Auditorium, URI Graduate School of Oceanography, Narragansett, RI. Other topics include SMP progress and actions over the last year, chapter overviews, future steps, and summer highlights from industry leaders and state agencies. Find the preliminary version of the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan (SMP) and comment form at http://www.rismp.org/the-plan/.

Comments will be accepted through November 1. “We encourage anyone who cares about the future of all things shellfish in Rhode Island – from the shellfish resources themselves to the industries that depend on them to the recommendations for how we can work together to improve shellfishing – to come out for this meeting,” said Azure Cygler, project manager for the SMP, of the URI (Graduate School of Oceanography) Coastal Resources Center (CRC), who also represents the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program.

The SMP process began in 2013 to provide comprehensive policy guidance regarding management and protection measures for shellfish, such as quahogs and oysters, located in state marine waters, with the full plan expected to be completed this fall. Throughout the process, stakeholders – including representatives of the wild harvest, aquaculture and restoration communities — have been closely involved in identifying policies and practices to restore shellfish resources and enhance the economic vitality of the shellfishing industry. The plan will be updated as new research and information becomes available. A special celebration to honor the creation of the plan is being developed. For more information on the SMP, contact Cygler at (401) 874-6197 or azure@crc.uri.edu.

The SMP contains recommendations which have been crafted by technical teams and facilitated by CRC and the Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program for use by two key state agencies: the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM). Key partners are URI College of Environmental Sciences (URI-CELS), Roger Williams University and the URI Coastal Institute. Funders are the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation, the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, and the Sharpe Family Foundation/Henry and Peggy Sharpe. Input throughout has been provided generously by leaders in the industry, including the Rhode Island Shellfishermen’s Association and the Ocean State Aquaculture Association.

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.

First Chapter of the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan Available for Public Comment

The Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan Team is pleased to announce that “Chapter 1. Introduction” of the plan is now available for download. Additional chapters will be made available as they are finalized through the Spring and Summer.

The SMP team encourages input and will be accepting comments until August 31st. 2014. Comments will be recorded, tracked, and considered. The Technical Advisory Team for each chapter will be responsible for incorporating the comments as they deem appropriate, with the final decision resting with the SMP Coordinating Team. A full matrix of anonymous comments will be posted to the SMP website after August 31st, 2014

Please send comments to:
smp@etal.uri.edu (please indicate chapter in subject heading), or
• URI Coastal Resources Center (Attn: Azure Cygler), 220 South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882
For multiple comments, please use the Public Comment Form

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this process at smp@etal.uri.edu