Rhode Island fisherwoman leading planning group for state's fisheries

Published on
February 12, 2018

A Rhode Island fisherwoman is taking the lead in helping shape the future of the industry in her state.

Armed with a USD 75,000 (EUR 61,000) grant, Sarah Schumann is leading a group that is developing a report designed to outline strategies that will help commercial fishermen in America’s smallest state thrive amid changes to the environment, government regulations, and other forces that impact the business.

This month started a six-week process where Resilient Fisheries RI began receiving public comments on a report that will be produced next month. That report, The Rhode Island Commercial Fisheries Blueprint for Resilience, will outline strategies and the group will present that report to government leaders and other key stakeholders.

It initially started as a project to look at environmental change, but Schumann said as the group delved into the topic, they realized the future of the seafood industry depended on more than just that.

“It's all so intertwined and the environment is not the only thing that's changing and challenging us to evolve in new ways,” she said. “We're also facing a lot of challenges from the district management instructions we're operating in, the demographic, characteristics of our fishing industry, the markets and globalization, other things, happening all at once and it can be quite overwhelming for a fishing business.”

Among the other items the group is examining include: getting younger people more involved in the industry and finding new ways for the fishing industry to market products to consumers. They’re also looking at ways to improve civic engagement with the public and determine what types of fish and seafood will be available to harvest in local waters.

Schumann has worked for 14 years in the industry, starting as a deckhand on a lobster boat before she began her own razor clam harvesting business. She said the hope for the initiative is that stakeholders will take ownership of certain strategies and build plans around them.

“We're not planning to have a future as an entity. There are a lot of entities who are doing on-the-ground work in the Rhode Island fishing industry, as well as support organizations, nonprofits, and other people who are in the industry space, supporting fisheries,” she said. “Our goal and business route [is] for all of those people to play the role of implementing these things and this is… a guide plan to guide all of those people who are doing the on-the-ground work towards what's most important to the industry.”

Schumann said she welcomes public comment on the newly introduced plan, which can be found at resilientfisheriesri.org.

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