Chapter 164

Chapter 164


Enacted 07/10/03





     Introduced By: Senator J. Michael Lenihan

     Date Introduced: February 13, 2003



It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:


     SECTION 1. Title 20 of the General Laws entitled "Fish and Wildlife" is hereby

amended by adding thereto the following chapter:

     CHAPTER 3.2


     20-3.2-1. Short title. -- This chapter shall be known as the “Rhode Island Freedom to

Fish and Marine Conservation Act.”

     20-3.2-2. Findings. -- The general assembly finds and declares:

     (a) The people of the State of Rhode Island have an ongoing interest in the sound

management of commercially and noncommercially important marine fish, shellfish and

crustacean species and their associated habitats.

     (b) That marine fisheries have been important to the way of life of people in Rhode Island

throughout its history;

     (c) Marine fisheries support commercial operations and recreational activities, both of

which are significant contributors to the state's economy;

     (d) The rights and interests of people to engage in commercial and recreational fishing in

Rhode Island's marine waters need to be recognized and protected;

     (e) Rhode Island has historically managed its marine fisheries for the benefit of the

people of the state, as an ecological asset, and as a source of food, income and recreation;

     (f) Protecting fish, shellfish, crustaceans, essential marine habitats, and the right to fish in

Rhode Island's marine waters must be managed together;

     (g) Various management measures, including the closure of marine waters or portions

thereof to fishing, can be utilized to manage marine fish, shellfish, crustaceans, essential marine

habitats, or other marine resources, but such measures must be developed in response to specific

conservation or restoration needs, be based on the best currently available scientific information,

and emanate from an open management and regulatory process, incorporating full input from all

affected stakeholders, conducted pursuant to the general laws of the state of Rhode Island.

     20-3.2-3. Freedom to fish. – (a) The marine waters of Rhode Island, or portions thereof,

shall not be closed to recreational or commercial fishing unless such closure is:

     (1) deemed necessary in order to protect, manage or restore marine fish, shellfish,

crustaceans, and associated marine habitats or other marine resources, protect public health or

safety, or address some other public purpose;

     (2) based on the best currently available scientific information; and

     (3) developed via public review and stakeholder input through chapter 42-35 and other

applicable state law, and with the advice of the marine fisheries council; except where the director

deems it necessary to institute a closure via emergency rule, in which case the regulation must

meet the standards set forth by chapter 42-35 and have an effective period of not more than one

hundred twenty (120) days.

     (b) Any marine waters of Rhode Island, or portions thereof, that are closed to recreational

or commercial fishing shall be reopened if and when the original justification for such closure

ceases to apply.

     (c) As part of the annual reporting requirements as specified in section 20-2.1-9(6), the

Department of Environmental Management, upon advice of the Marine Fisheries Council, shall

include therein an evaluation of any closures identified as significant by the council and any

relevant scientific information related thereto that was collected during the year.

     SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.     


LC02426/SUB A