The Smallest State Deserves Bigger Representation
On Tuesday, the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation - U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline - announced the reintroduction of the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Fairness Act. This would add two seats for Rhode Island to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), which oversees fishery interests such as quotas, open and closed areas, and fishing seasons for various species.
As the oceans warm, fish migrate further north - meaning that many species of fish once farther south in the Atlantic are now right off the shores of Rhode Island.
As a result, Rhode Island's fisherman rely on these Mid-Atlantic species - but have no voice on the Council.
The contrast is especially stark with squid. According to NOAA Fisheries 2019 data, Rhode Island lands the most Longfin & Shortfin squid - six million more pounds than the runner up, New Jersey.
New Jersey has a seat on the Mid-Atlantic Council.
These squid fisheries are such a critical part of Rhode Island's economy that Calamari was declared Rhode Island's Official State Appetizer back in 2014.
And yet, Rhode Island doesn't have a voting seat in the Council to participate in management decisions regarding the quotas, fishing seasons, permits, and other squid fishery policies that can have an enormous impact on jobs, economic opportunities, and the fishing communities here in Rhode Island.
Land-locked Pennsylvania has a seat on the Mid-Atlantic Council.
We occasionally hear the argument that Rhode Island falls within the New England Fishery Management Council. And we do. But there's precedent for states who are impacted by two regions: North Carolina is represented on both the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic Councils. Rhode Island can and should have seats for both New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
Rhode Island's Calamari made a big splash across the country with its appearance at the Democratic National Convention. We're past due for another comeback.
"Rhode Island’s fishermen must have a voice in the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s decisions, which increasingly affect the future of Rhode Island’s fisheries,” said Langevin said in his press release.
As reflected in the legislation's title, it's an issue of fairness. Major players in the fisheries controlled by the Council should have active, voting seats at the table. Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but we're the biggest when it comes to calamari. It's time we're no longer left high and dry.