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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI to celebrate opening of Commercial Fisheries Center, launch of new research boat on May 7

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

$100,000 donation from Bristol businessman to endow boat’s operation

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 4, 2004 -- The University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences will celebrate fish, fisheries and the state’s fishing industry with an open house and the launching of a new research boat on Friday, May 7.

At 11 a.m., the College will officially open the Rhode Island Commercial Fisheries Center at URI’s East Farm in Kingston.

The center will serve as the home for five non-profit commercial fishing organizations, and it will include office and meeting space as well as a repository for information related to the groups and the fishing industry. It will also be a site for fisheries researchers and educators to interact with working fishermen.

The groups involved are the Ocean State Fishermen’s Association, the R.I. Commercial Fishermen’s Association, the R.I. Shellfishermen’s Association, the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, and the Fishermen’s Call. The center is in an unused building that the groups have leased from URI for $1 per year.

During the open house, the Point Club, the only self-insurance program owned by commercial fishermen in the nation, will donate $20,000 to URI to establish an endowment to support cooperative fisheries research in Rhode Island.

"I’m very excited that we’ve been able to help in bringing together the various commercial fishing groups in the state and provide them with a permanent home. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved -- the commercial fishing industry, the state and the University," said Jeff Seemann, dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the one most responsible for making the facility available to the groups. "I expect that as these associations begin to work more closely with one another, as well as with URI researchers, the entire local fishing industry will benefit. And that will be a boon to the economy of the region."

URI has close ties to the fishing industry and has conducted fisheries related research for more than 100 years.

Following the open house, the College will dedicate the newest addition to the University’s fleet of research vessels, the Hope Hudner, at Wickford Shipyard at 1:15 p.m.

Acquired from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management and rebuilt by the URI Department of Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science, the 35-foot vessel will be used for fisheries research, education and outreach in Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound.

It can carry to 14 passengers and is capable of traveling at 24 knots. It will be used for water sampling, fixed fishing gear research, dive training, and public outreach, among other uses.

"The client base for the use of this boat is university-wide and statewide," said Dennis Nixon, associate dean of the College. "Because of its speed, it gives us a whole new capability for rapid response to emerging environmental issues in local waters. We’ll be able to get researchers, public officials, the media and other observers out to key sites on the Bay faster than was possible before."

The boat is named for Hope Hudner, the wife of Bristol businessman Michael Hudner, chairman of B&H Shipping Group, an international company that operates a fleet of tanker ships. The company donated $100,000 to URI to endow the operation of the new boat to ensure funds are available for maintenance and upgrades.

"This gift is in keeping with established practice of B&H support to marine environmental science and civil discourse on the issues involving shipping and the marine environment," Michael Hudner said. "This gift will contribute to the quality of life around the state and the bay for all of us. It will also assist the local fishing industry and fishermen, which we think is important for its own sake, both commercially as a source of employment and as a significant contributor to the quality of life and character of life in Rhode Island."