NARRAGANSETT—Senator Jack Reed, along with Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, is lobbying support for legislation that would give Rhode Island commercial fishermen a voice on the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), a board which establishes fishing regulations for the federal waters off the mid-Atlantic shore.
“There is a serious flaw in our fisheries management system, which denies the fishermen of my state a voice in the management of many of the stocks that they catch and rely upon for their livelihoods,” said Reed. “The [MAFMC] has enormous significance in the lives of Rhode Island fishermen, but currently, no Rhode Islanders get a say in how the council votes. That needs to change.”
The catches of Rhode Island commercial fishermen represent a quarter of the overall catch from the mid-Atlantic fishery, and the landings which Rhode Island fishing vessels haul in are greater than those from the states of New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina combined. New Jersey is the only state which lands more MAFMC regulated species than Rhode Island.
Without representation on the council, Rhode Island fishermen have no say in the setting of fishing quotas and environmental restrictions in the mid-Atlantic, and many species which are crucial to the Rhode Island seafood economy are not regulated with that source of revenue in mind.
“Most of the Rhode Island fish species, like scup, come out of the Mid-Atlantic,” said Richard L. Fuka, President of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance. “RI commercial fishermen have been vulnerable to not getting a fair share.”
Reed’s bill, the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Fairness Act, would add two places for Rhode Island representation to the 21 member council. One seat would appointed by the Secretary of Commerce under recommendations from Rhode Island State Governor Lincoln Chafee. The second seat would be filled by a state official holding marine fishery management responsibilities. Fishermen across the state, however, would like to see someone who truly understands the workings of the Rhode Island commercial fishermen community placed in these two positions.
For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.