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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

State fisheries associations endorse code of ethics

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 23, 2000 -- All four fishing industry associations in Rhode Island endorsed a code of responsible fishing recently in an effort to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable fisheries and to improve the public perception of the commercial fishing industry.

According to David Beutel, a fisheries researcher at the University of Rhode Island who played a key role in generating support among the fishermen, "the code standardizes the concept of responsibility and unites people behind responsible fishing methods."

The Rhode Island Fisheries Industry Principles for Responsible Fisheries is based on guidelines established by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1996 and adopted by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1997. In the last few months, the code was adopted by the Ocean State Fishermen's Association, the Rhode Island Shellfishermen's Association, the Rhode Island Lobstermen's Association, and the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen's Association. The Rhode Island Seafood Council, which represents the fish processing and handling sector of the fishing industry, also endorsed the code.

The intent of the U.N. code was to have it filter down to state and local organizations. So Beutel, a former commercial fisherman, and his colleagues at the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program took the initiative to contact the industry groups.

"We thought that if we could get every commercial fishing association to sign on to this code, then we would have accomplished a coming-together of a notoriously independent industry," said Beutel. "I believe we're the first state in the Northeast to have all of our fishing associations adopt a code of responsibility."

The effort wasn't easy. Beutel said that some fishermen were initially opposed because they said they were already acting responsibly and didn't believe a code would do any good. Others thought that signing a code now would imply that they hadn't been ethical in the past.

"Twenty years ago they were all proud to be fishermen," explained Beutel. "But now the media and public impression of commercial fishing is very different. Yet they're still the same people doing the same job. And in the last four or five years they're voluntarily participating in the science and management of all the fisheries so that harvest levels become sustainable."

One result of the adoption of the code of ethics in Rhode Island is that fishing associations from other states are contacting Beutel for information about the code.

"When fishermen adopt these codes and participate in the science, they are developing an industry that has all the things they want a decent income, a safe workplace, a sustainable fishery, a future."

For Information: David Beutel 874-7152, Todd McLeish 874-7892


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