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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

$1.42 million aquaculture initiative seeks to ‘grow the industry’ in RI

NARRAGANSETT -- April 29, 2002 -- Aquaculture gains a firmer footing in Rhode Island with federal support generated through the efforts of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed. The grant directs $1.42 million toward development, promotion, and management of a viable aquaculture presence in the state.

The Rhode Island Aquaculture Initiative is a unique collaboration that unites federal and state interests as well as academic, regulatory, and industry resources. The initiative is appropriating the $1.42 million to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), the state’s lead regulatory agency for aquaculture, with CRMC enlisting Rhode Island Sea Grant, the University of Rhode Island (URI), and Roger Williams University (RWU) to administer the grant project.

"With the technical knowledge and investment in research by Sea Grant, URI, and Roger Williams, and with their close work with the fishing industry, Rhode Island has great potential to become a leader in the aquaculture industry in the Northeast," Reed says.

The aquaculture initiative addresses Coastal Zone Management Act recommendations that call for aquaculture planning as part of a comprehensive coastal zone management program, according to Grover Fugate, CRMC executive director. Till now, there has been no funding source attached to the recommendations. Reed’s procurement of funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) initiates this planning process, which Fugate describes as "the most important thing that has happened to aquaculture in Rhode Island in 40 years."

Major components of the proposed program reflect a focus on research and technological development that has characterized past university-industry endeavors. One component is support for applied research to address industry priorities, including cultivation of alternative species, development of monitoring and marketing innovations, evaluation of environmental and economic impacts, and enhancement of comprehensive ocean mapping efforts.

A second key element is creation of two extension positions, one specializing in finfish culture and the other in shellfish culture. This extension function will ensure integrated, statewide outreach to support the industry with technical assistance and training, demonstration projects, species diversification, and market development.

Addressing the initiative’s emphasis on a practical, shirtsleeves approach to aquaculture, the presidents of both participating universities express gratification for the opportunity to apply their institutions’ work within the industry.

"We have been doing the basic science in this field for many years, and this grant will help that insight and knowledge get dispersed throughout the state," says URI President Robert L. Carothers.

RWU President Roy J. Nirschel agrees that the initiative offers the university partnership a means for significant contributions to applied science in the region. "Through the Roger Williams Center for Economic and Environmental Development, the university has aggressively pursued the development of marine sciences in the state," he says. "We’re working to simplify the process while creating a healthy environment that encourages the aquaculture industry to develop."

The initiative builds on a tradition of collaboration and networking between the universities "to capitalize on the vast intellectual and scientific capacity in this state for all things marine and coastal," comments state Rep. Eileen Naughton, a long-time champion of aquaculture in Rhode Island. Naughton’s pursuit of federal support for aquaculture, initially through the office of Sen. John H. Chafee and then through the office of Sen. Reed, has been crucial for the realization of this initiative.

By providing a knowledge-based foundation for industry development, the aquaculture initiative opens a range of opportunities in both the science and the business of aquaculture, observes Barry Costa-Pierce, Rhode Island Sea Grant director.

"Because of the state’s small size and the intensity of existing coastal resource uses, Rhode Island may never become a major producer in terms of quantity," he acknowledges. However, he says, the state can offer world-class talent in aquaculture to assert leadership and bolster the national and international industry with applied science, business, marketing, education, and training services.

David Alves, CRMC aquaculture coordinator and chair of the aquaculture initiative’s executive committee, states that the immediate goal "is to increase production and diversify the industry." Noting that Rhode Island’s aquaculture production now depends almost entirely on two species—quahogs and oysters—Alves says the extension and research efforts will foster cultivation of new and nontraditional species, exploration of innovative culture methods, and recruitment of untapped producers.

"We may never catch up to Connecticut’s $70 million aquaculture industry," he says of Rhode Island’s aquaculture status. "But I do see us having a viable, healthy industry that can contribute to the state’s bottom line."

Contact: David Alves, CRMC: (401) 783-3370, Rick Goff, Roger Williams University: (401) 254-3252, Tony Corey, URI/RI Sea Grant: (401) 874-6844, Todd McLeish, URI: (401) 874-7892

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