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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

CRC, Sea Grant leading effort to develop Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – July 16, 2013 -- The University of Rhode Island is continuing to play a leadership role in helping the state plan for the future of its shellfishing resources through the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan. The effort is well underway, with the URI Coastal Resources Center (CRC) and Rhode Island Sea Grant College Program at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography serving as chief facilitators.

It's a milestone project for the Ocean State, which claims the quahog as its official shellfish. In 2013, CRC and Sea Grant brought together state agencies, researchers from URI and Roger Williams University, and myriad stakeholders — members of Rhode Island’s traditional wild harvest industry, representatives from the growing aquaculture field, the nonprofit community concerned with restoration of shellfish in the Bay and coastal ponds, and the recreational clamming community — to collaborate on the plan.

Some of the ideas that have emerged so far call for the creation of guiding policies that: 1) build understanding of the economic, environmental and cultural values of the local resources and industries; 2) propose alternative management strategies and new mechanisms for implementation; and 3) promote science-based shellfish management decisions by increasing science activities.

The project garners interest not only for its potential to improve how shellfish are grown and harvested in state waters, but also for the support it may provide to the shellfish industry and the awareness it may raise about the social and cultural values that Rhode Islanders connect to the resource.

These concerns were front and center when the project launched late in 2012, and CRC and Sea Grant are working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, and state agencies with regulatory responsibilities for overseeing shellfish management in the state, on the initial phase of the plan. Joining in these concerns are key supporters — the Rhode Island Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Sharp Family Foundation/Henry and Peggy Sharpe, and the URI Coastal Institute.

Getting the public involved in the project has been a key initiative, and spring 2013 saw URI providing the public with plenty of opportunities to engage in the planning process, from stakeholder meetings to workshop sessions at which attendees could identify critical resource areas on maps. For the summer season, citizens have the chance to sign up for guided clam-digging tours. Additional events are slated for the fall.

Also in the fall, a new phase of development of the shellfish management plan will get underway, as the draft plan chapters are created and provided to the public for review and comment. But even once the plan is developed, the work is far from over. In fact, implementation — the carrying out of the plan policies by the state agencies in collaboration with stakeholder groups — will require continued improvement and enhancement of the policies as new information and data become available.

Those interested in learning more about the SMP can visit http://www.rismp.org/ or http://www.crc.uri.edu/activities_page/rhode-island-shellfish-management-plan/