RI Shellfish Initiative



State-Wide Initiative Benefitting Shellfish, Industry, Communities

The University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center (CRC) is hard at work on the roll-out and implementation of the RI Shellfish Initiative. CRC has stepped up to engage several partners throughout the state and to leverage its long-standing reputation for facilitating adoption of sound coastal management practices, informed by best-available science. More than 10 public, private, and government entities—from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management and Coastal Resources Management Council, to The Nature Conservancy, to local trade associations—are participating in this ambitious, long-term series of actions that will promote Rhode Island’s shellfish industry, the seafood it produces, and the enormous impact this resource has on the state’s economy. The Initiative compliments NOAA’s National Shellfish Initiative’s goals, but is tailored to the needs of Rhode Island. The CRC team of coastal resource management professionals is uniquely positioned to help the RI Shellfish Initiative succeed.

A Triad for Health and Prosperity

The RI Shellfish Initiative outlines how state and municipal leaders and key stakeholders can act to ensure shellfish resources and industries remain vibrant and sustainable. Recommendations are organized into three categories: Shellfish as Food, Jobs, and Environmental Sustainability.

Food: Rhode Island’s critically acclaimed shellfish are sold across the U.S. Ongoing promotion of shellfish markets, in concert with adoption of sustainable harvest and management practices, will ensure robust shellfish populations.

Jobs: The Initiative promotes industry’s current efforts to increase jobs supported by shellfish. Shellfish industries in Rhode Island—wild harvest and aquaculture—contributed over $12M in direct dollars to the state’s economy in 2016.

Environmental Sustainability: The Initiative supports sound policies that ensure shellfish as a resource remains well-managed and advocates for restoration of habitat where it has been lost. It will also support applied science that furthers understanding of shellfish’s economic, environmental, and social contributions.

Building a Better Future

Shellfish have been a critical part of the state’s heritage and factor greatly into its cultural identity. Abundant shellfish resources are a testament to the clean waters and attractive beaches throughout Rhode Island that draw tourists from around the world. The state continues to be recognized for its clean waters, wholesome shellfish, outstanding recreational opportunities, and a vibrant shellfish economy.

The Shellfish Initiative will support continued job growth and economic opportunity through sustainable management of shellfish resources, improved water quality, and cutting-edge research. Launched in April of 2017, it’s the logical follow-up to the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan (RI SMP) that was adopted in 2014. That plan is the state’s first comprehensive guide to managing, protecting, and enhancing shellfish resources. It was drafted by CRC and RI Sea Grant in collaboration with multiple partners.

Highlights of the RI SMP’s vision include:

  • Ensuring the health and proper ecological function of marine ecosystems
  • Realizing socio-economic benefits associated with healthy shellfish populations
  • Preserving, protecting, managing, and restoring as needed, shellfish resources and essential habitats
  • Employing sound governance to achieve fair, equitable, and safe access to shellfish resources

Once again, CRC has eagerly shouldered the commitment to play a leadership role in collaborations among Rhode Island’s key stakeholders. With the RI Shellfish Initiative’s action plan in writing and in hand, groups and agencies throughout the state are focusing their teamwork and strengthening partnerships among government, science, industry, and non-profits.