RI SMP Anniversary Update


In November 2014, a celebration heralded the creation of the Rhode Island Shellfish Management Plan, the first-of-its-kind plan for the long-term protection and enhancement of Ocean State shellfish resources. The SMP, facilitated by the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center (CRC), Rhode Island Sea Grant, and Roger Williams University, for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (RI CRMC), was the product of a landmark collaboration among state agencies, members of the shellfish industry, and community organizations. This collaboration helped the plan achieve significant headway in addressing key shellfish resources issues for Rhode Island.

Achievements 2014-2015 Continued research support for SMP issues:

In 2015, Rhode Island Sea Grant’s funding, at $1.2 million, continues the program’s support for the second year of research projects focusing on shellfish issues central to the SMP. The projects include investigations into the carrying capacity of oysters in Rhode Island ecosystems, climate stressors for shellfish, development of a quahog research fleet, and enhancement of knowledge of how Vibrio bacteria, which can contaminate shellfish for human consumption, impact oysters.

Showcasing the SMP as a successful process and model nationwide:

SMP collaborators are helping other coastal places learn from the SMP process and undertake their own efforts to protect and enhance shellfish resources. For example, SMP partners shared information about the project at regional and national meetings, and the group engaged with researchers to start developing a peer-reviewed publication.

Beginning a new chapter for shellfish resources in Rhode Island:

With the SMP serving as a guiding document, the foundation was set in 2015 for the start of other projects concerning shellfish resources. RI DEM and CRC prepared the way for the creation of the Rhode Island Shellfish Initiative, an effort reflecting a similar initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). SMP partners also built public momentum for plan recommendations and for the state’s burgeoning aquaculture industry. To this end, Rhode Island Sea Grant/CRC received in 2015 a $300,000 NOAA grant to provide an aquaculture outreach program for the next two years. Funding will support the building of a collaboration of consumers, industry members, and government agencies committed to bringing more locally caught and healthy seafood, including shellfish, to local tables.

Efficient and effective implementation of a majority of SMP recommendations:

More than 63% of SMP recommendations are either in progress or completed. Regulatory reform included work to refine licensing processes, Vibrio bacteria inspections, and opening and closing times for some fishing grounds. This high implementation rate is due to the collaborative work that took place during plan development among the agencies, private sector, and community groups to address conflicts in an open, early and productive manner. In addition, SMP implementation and coordinating teams are continuing this open process, ensuring that industry, agency, and non-profit representatives are able to enhance and monitor the plan recommendations that address an array of shellfish resources issues, from changing regulations, to marketing strategies, to research support.

Supporting tools for learning about shellfish resources:

CRC, RISG, and the Coastal Institute at URI developed a variety of products through which the public could learn about local shellfish resources, including the creation of an award-winning book, Rhode Island’s Shellfish: An Ecological History, which examines shellfish through economic, cultural, and historical lenses and will be available to the public shortly. Also, a video features members of the industry, regulators, and other stakeholders talking about the SMP and the importance of shellfish economically and culturally to Rhode Island and its residents.

Building the marketing capacity of the local shellfishing industry:

Shellfishermen served an active and critical role in implementing SMP recommendations in 2015. They have also worked on building public awareness of the availability of shellfish resources and the economic role that these resources play. For example, $20,000 in Local Agriculture and Seafood Act (LASA) grant funding bolstered efforts of the Rhode Island Seafood Marketing Collaborative to provide a statewide seafood branding and marketing campaign, including a public service announcement. Shellfishermen’s efforts also included working with RI DEM to start developing an online Commercial Harvester Education Program to provide skills strengthening to existing and new industry members, continuing summer “Come Clam With Me!” classes for the public, and exploring ecotourism opportunities.

The RI SMP was made possible with funding support from Rhode Island Foundation, the Prospect Hill Foundation, the Sharpe Family Foundation/Henry and Peggy Sharpe, van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and the URI Coastal Institute.