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
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