Sen. Reed pushes for state representation on squid management
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed was joined last week by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin and state Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit in pushing for legislation to give Rhode Island a seat at the table of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The council is a regional board that establishes fishery management rules for stocks primarily caught in federal waters adjacent to the mid-Atlantic coast.
Reed will soon reintroduce legislation in the U.S. Senate that would add Rhode Island to the list of seven states with voting representation on the council. Langevin will introduce the bill in the House of Representatives.
Currently, Rhode Island is a member of the New England Fishery Management Council, which oversees groundfish such as cod, flounder and haddock. However, the mid-Atlantic council is responsible for managing squid, as well as other species like mackerel and butterfish. While Rhode Island fishermen catch about 17.5 million pounds of squid – more than half of all squid landings in the Northeast – the state does not have formal representation on the management council.
Reed has been pushing the issue since 2006.
“This is an issue of fairness,” he said. “Our fishermen haul in more squid than any other state, but they don’t have as much of a voice on management as some states that don’t even fish for squid. There is simply a lack of appropriate representation on the council. That needs to change.”
The catch of Rhode Island commercial fishermen represent a quarter of the overall catch from the mid-Atlantic fishery. Rhode Island fishing vessels haul in more than Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina combined.
New Jersey is the only state that lands more mid-Atlantic regulated species than Rhode Island.
Without representation on the council, Rhode Island cannot participate fully in development of fishery management plans for mid- Atlantic stocks, many of which are crucial to the Rhode Island seafood economy.
Reed’s legislation would add two seats for Rhode Island representation to the 21-member council. One seat would be appointed by the secretary of commerce under recommendations from Gov. Lincoln Chafee. The second seat would be filled by a state official with marine fishery management. To accommodate the new members, the Mid-Atlantic fishery council would increase in size from 21 voting members to 23. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is an original cosponsor of Reed’s bill.
“Rhode Island’s fishing industry has long been a central part of our economy and our heritage,” said Whitehouse. “Local fishermen deserve to have a seat at the table when decisions are made affecting their jobs, and I’m proud to join Sen. Reed in supporting this important legislation.
Langevin, who represents Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district, says the fishing industry is a vital part of the state’s heritage and economy.
“Decisions of the mid-Atlantic council directly affect the ability of our fishermen to maintain their businesses,” he said. “It’s critical for the future of our fishing industry that our state has a fair say.”
Along with the support from Rhode Island’s representatives in Congress, Coit said the state supports the act as well. “The time has come to better align the regional federal fishery management programs governing the fisheries off the U.S. East Coast with the interests they serve. This act would do just that. By promoting this act, Rhode Island is seeking to protect and support the interests of our fishermen in a fair, cooperative, respectful and responsible manner.”