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Delegation Seeks to Give Fishermen Say on Squid

Jack Reed, Jim Langevin and Sheldon Whitehouse are petitioning for two Rhode Island seats on a fishery council.

Release courtesy the office of Senator Jack Reed.

At 10:15 a.m. Thursday in Galilee, U.S. Senator Jack Reed will be joined by U.S. Representative Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit and local fisherman in pushing for legislation to give them a seat at the table of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, a regional management board that establishes fishery management rules for stocks primarily caught in federal waters adjacent to the mid-Atlantic coast. 

The Rhode Island Fishermen’s Fairness Act, which Senator Reed authored and will soon reintroduce in the U.S. Senate, and Congressman Langevin will introduce in the House, would add Rhode Island to the list of seven states with voting representation on the council.

Currently, Rhode Island is a member of the New England Fishery Management Council, which oversees groundfish such as cod, flounder, and haddock. 

But the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is responsible for managing squid, as well as other species like mackerel and butterfish. 

And while Rhode Island’s fishermen annually catch about 7 million pounds of squid, more than half of all squid landings in the Northeast, it does not currently have formal representation on the management council.

“Mid-Atlantic regulated stocks now represents the majority of landings for Rhode Island commercial fishermen,” Reed said.  “It is time that our state has formal representation on the council for the fishery where our so many of our fishermen make a living.” 

The catch of Rhode Island commercial fishermen represent a quarter of the overall catch from the mid-Atlantic fishery, and the landings which Rhode Island fishing vessels haul in are greater than those from the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina combined.

New Jersey is the only state that lands more MAFMC regulated species than Rhode Island.

Without representation on the council, Rhode Island cannot participate fully in development of fishery management plans for mid-Atlantic stocks, many of which are crucial to the Rhode Island seafood economy.

Reed’s bill would add two places for Rhode Island representation to the 21-member council.  One seat would be appointed by the Secretary of Commerce under recommendations from Rhode Island’s governor. 

The second seat would be filled by Rhode Island’s principal state official with marine fishery management responsibility.  To accommodate these new members, the MAFMC would increase in size from 21 voting members to 23.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is an original co-sponsor of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Fairness Act.  Congressman Jim Langevin will introduce legislation identical to Reed’s bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • WHO: U.S. Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Representative Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit, and Fred Mattera, a commercial fisherman.
  • WHEN: Thursday, April 4 at 10:15 a.m.
  • WHERE: Press conference will take place on the loading dock at Town Dock, overlooking a pier at 45 State Street in Narragansett.

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