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RI Department of Environmental Management
DEM SAYS SPECIAL TAGS FOR LOBSTER TRAPS IN RHODE ISLAND WATERS NECESSARY BEGINNING JUNE 1
Tag Program in Federal Waters Begins May 1
PROVIDENCE - As part of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) lobster fishery management process, and as approved recently by the Rhode Island General Assembly, each lobster trap in Rhode Island waters will need to carry a special tag identifying it as a legal trap beginning June 1. The measure is supported by the lobster industry, and mirrors a lobster trap tag requirement that begins in federal waters on May 1.
In preparation, the Department of Environmental Management's Division of Fish and Wildlife is gathering information from all Rhode Island-licensed commercial lobstermen on the number of lobster traps they use, the areas in which the traps are located, and the number of trap tags they will require. DEM is also asking lobstermen to fill out a simple catch and effort report for the 1999 fishing year. Trap tag order forms are also being provided to commercial lobstermen, who will order the tags directly from the vendor for 14 cents per tag.
Recreational lobstermen will receive the tags at no cost at DEM's licensing office at 235 Promenade Street, in Providence when they renew their recreational licenses. The National Marine Fisheries Service in Gloucester, MA will handle federal commercial lobster licenses.
Institution of trap tags is among several changes to lobster management regulations that have been made since 1998 by the RI Marine Fisheries Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service in accordance with the ASMFC's interstate lobster plan. The management measures were developed through discussions between lobster fishermen and federal and state scientists and administrators, and reviewed at a series of public hearings. The suite of measures is designed to deal with over-fishing of American lobster throughout its range from Labrador to North Carolina.
The lobster fishery in Rhode Island is an $18 - $20 million annual dockside industry that translates into an $80 - $100 million yearly economic benefit to the state. Lobster landings, which peaked in 1991 at 7 1/2 million pounds, have since dropped to between 5 and 6 million pounds in Rhode Island.
Two changes to improve lobster management took effect last year. Vessels are now limited to 1200 traps, and a 1/16th increase in the size of escape vents took effect. The vessel trap limit will be reduced to 1000 traps on June 1, as adopted and announced last year. Similar and varied measures are being adopted by the other Atlantic states to protect the American lobster.
Those with questions about the trap tag program can call Thomas Angell at DEM's Coastal Fisheries Laboratory in Jerusalem, at 783-2304.