State agencies, project managers, researchers, stakeholders and funders celebrated Rhode Island’s first comprehensive shellfish management plan Monday night at the University of Rhode Island. The plan is the result of two years of work by this diverse group of Rhode Islanders who came together to make the concept of a Shellfish Management Plan (SMP) a reality.
The SMP, which is the purview of the state’s Department of Environmental Management and Coastal Resources Management Council, along with the Department of Health, guides the management of shellfish harvest, culture, restoration, and safe handling.
Hailing the planning process, with its partnership among state agencies, private funders, and university staff and scientists as a “model” for addressing environmental issues in Rhode Island, URI Graduate School of Oceanography Dean Bruce Corliss said the plan would have “a significant impact on Rhode Island’s economy and well being in the years to come.”
Development of the plan was instigated by the DEM and the CRMC, and facilitated by the URI Coastal Resources Center (CRC) and Rhode Island Sea Grant, which also funded $1.2 million in research projects to help fill in some of the missing data on shellfish ecology on which to base policy decisions.
Jennifer McCann, director of U.S. Coastal Programs for CRC and extension for Rhode Island Sea Grant, said that early discussion with stakeholders brought forth recommendations that the plan improve coordination among state agencies, improve communication between regulators and the shellfishing industry, and incorporate more science into management discussions, among others.
Grover Fugate, executive director of the CRMC, said that the plan was “a real opportunity to educate and inform everyone – not just the public, but the agency staffs” and has led to cooperation among DEM, CRMC, and the Department of Health. He pointed to new memoranda of understanding that “reduce redundancy, streamline processes, and improve management of the resource overall.”
DEM Director Janet Coit called the plan “a living document” that is going to be “refined, added to, and updated almost immediately.” She added that the night’s ceremony represented “an end of the plan and hopefully the beginning of a Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative,” which would include the implementation of the plan and incorporation of ongoing research.
At the ceremony, project manager Azure Cygler, who received a standing ovation for her work on the plan, presented awards to members of industry and other stakeholders who had contributed significantly to the plan’s development. Michael McGiveney, president of the R.I. Shellfisherman’s Association and recipient of one of the awards, said of those present, “It’s great that people care about the shellfish industry as much as the people who do it.”
Project Documents and Video Available
Judith Swift, director of the URI Coastal Institute, which supported the development of the plan, announced the forthcoming book that sprang from the efforts of the plan to capture the “human dimension” in a “marriage of science and the humanities.” Rhode Island’s Shellfish: An Ecological History will be available shortly, she said, and those interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a copy.
A progress report for 2014 was also given to attendees at the ceremony. It is available online at http://rismp.org, along with the plan itself. A 7-minute video about the shellfish management plan is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B-CSqUWIl4&feature=youtu.be.