The Block Island Times

Study: Rhode Island’s waters not protected

By Stephanie Turaj | Jul 11, 2013

Rhode Island is ranked at the bottom of the list for protecting its marine wildlife.

A study, “SeaStates 2013” by the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue, says that Rhode Island has not established any protected ocean areas, called “no-take reserves.” It is one of 15 states that has failed to do so — other states include Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey.

“Marine biologists recommend creating strong marine protected areas (MPAs) to safeguard life within them and to benefit people outside them,” said the study, which was released earlier this year. “Few states provide strong protection for marine ecosystems. There is much room for improvement.”

The study continues on to state that “no-take marine reserves — MPAs free from fishing, mining and oil and gas development — are the gold standard. They allow places in the sea to recover biodiversity and abundance, and export marine life to surrounding and remote areas.”

The study looked at the percentage of area in no-take marine reserves three nautical miles out from each state’s coast.

Hawaii tops the list as having 22.94 percent of its waters established as no-take reserves, according to the study. California comes in at second, with 8.74 percent of no-take reserves. Rhode Island has none.

It was concluded that “with very few exceptions, states aren’t doing enough to safeguard their citizens’ interest in healthy oceans.”

When asked if he would focus on establishing no-take reserves, U.S. Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) issued this statement: “I strongly support state and federal efforts to protect Rhode Island’s fish stocks and marine economy, and I believe our fishermen and federal, regional, and state fisheries management agencies do a very good job in working together to manage and conserve our marine habitat and resources.”

Langevin continued, “The National Marine Fisheries Service and regional managers have shown a willingness to institute habitat closures, where appropriate, in order to protect spawning grounds and sensitive areas.”

The institute study says that no-take reserves give the “strongest protection,” partially because fishing isn’t allowed. “Many of these fishes change from female to male as they age and grow larger. Fishing can kill many individuals before they have a chance to become male,” says the study. “It’s not good for populations to lose all their males or their largest, most productive females, which can easily happen when vulnerable species are fished heavily.”

The study continues to say that, “ecosystems that aren’t fished are more resilient and healthier, recovering faster after unexpected changes happen in the sea.”

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