RISC Meeting Spawns a question: What’s the Real State of RI Fisheries?

The Rhode Island Statewide Coalition held its annual meeting yesterday. As the ProJo reports, the focus was on the economy and included guest speakers Leonard Lardaro (URI Economics professor) and a former New Zealand parliament member Maurice McTigue.

McTigue…gave examples of how his country made major internal changes to turn the tide on years of debt….[He]…told the audience that one of the ways his country got out of debt was by using its natural resources. He said New Zealand used long-term contracts to get commercial enterprises such as lumber companies — whether locally or from abroad — to become invested in the country’s economy.
He also described how it tossed out old bureaucracy and completely overhauled its education system by having individual schools governed by boards of trustees consisting of people elected only by the parents of children who attend the schools.
The arrangement led to accountability and better education, he said.
McTigue said that after making difficult changes, his country went from decades of not having balanced budgets to years of posting surpluses.
“Most of us here have had to live with the exact same income we got four years ago,” he said. “If we can do it, why can’t the government?”

Using natural resources and reforming education: sounds good to me. I write enough about education, though, and want to focus on the idea of using our natural resources.
It should be obvious what the Ocean State’s greatest natural resource is, right? The Bay. Water (or “Waaatterrrr” a la Patrick Kennedy). The shipping/port issue debate comes to mind immediately, but I want to go beneath those waves and focus on our fisheries. Basically, maximizing our fishing industry responsibly is something that needs to be studied. But I’m no expert at all and confess to being naive as far as the state of the fisheries.
In 2008, shore fisherman started expressing their worry that our striped bass population was in decline. Some thought this was the “canary in the coal mine”, but the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission maintained that all was well with stripers. Fishermen didn’t agree with each other, either (though I’m pretty sure that’s not surprising!). Shore fisherman continue to believe that stocks are declining, citing a scarcity of “schoolies”. However, apparently teen stripers and some of the big boys are still plentiful. There are also concerns that commercial fishermen down the coast (Maryland, for example) are wreaking havoc on our stocks.
Now there are also concerns about the Southern New England lobster industry and plans are in the works to reduce the allowable catch by between 50-75%. That would be a death blow to many, many lobstermen, who point out that they are older and basically the fleet is going to “age out” eventually anyway, so drastic cuts aren’t needed.. Apparently the drop in catchable lobsters is attributed to “warming water temperatures, shell disease and an increase in predators such as striped bass and dogfish.” An increase in striped bass. See my confusion? One fishery is shrinking because of an increase in the population of another species that is also shrinking. Or is it?!
By the way, I never knew that squid fishing was the most valuable fishery around here. Calamari anyone?

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Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“Spawns” a question about the fishing industry – Ha!
(Ahem. Sorry. Let the serious discussion proceed.)

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Wasn’t so long ago that “the oceans would feed us foever”.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

warming water temperatures
What could be causing that?

mangeek
mangeek
11 years ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought fishing and wildlife was a sub-100 million-dollar industry here. That’s a drop in the bucket. When I was doing research on the whole prostitution issue, there was plenty of evidence that the prostitution business was more of an economic boon than all of our fishing, but nobody seemed to mind outlawing that whole industry.
I think Rhode Island’s greatest potential lies in its location and density. If we can figure out a way to ‘do cities’ cheaper than other New England states, we’ll become a great place to work and live, siphoning economic activity from the Boston area.
We could also have a small container port, that would help our existing manufacturing and retail businesses out by lowering overhead. If we made it cheap enough to ship and receive goods that our ridiculous taxes are ‘beat’, real businesses might set up camp.

Russ
Russ
11 years ago

An increase in striped bass. See my confusion? One fishery is shrinking because of an increase in the population of another species that is also shrinking. Or is it?!

If the bass stay in local waters longer you would see an increase in predation of lobsters while overall stocks of striped bass are in decline.

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