STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today passed legislation (2012-H 7367Aaa) sponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi to ban pair trawling in Rhode Island waters for the next year.
The practice, which involves two fishing vessels dragging a single enormous net between them, is banned or limited by nearby states and has been attracting out-of-state vessels that use up the region’s species quota, and then land and process the fish in other states.
Pair trawling is a very effective means of capturing entire schools of fish, because working together the two boats can herd entire schools of fish into the net. However, the method also has a very high bycatch rate and also ensnares lobster traps, fixed fishing equipment and even smaller vessels that get in the way.
Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), whose district includes the port of Galilee, submitted the bill after speaking to many in the fishing industry, whose members argued that the practice is causing a large share of the region’s herring to go to the larger, out-of-state operations that come to the state to take advantage of the seasonal swell of herring, but also because it is one of the few places where pair trawling is allowed.
“There’s no benefit to our state to allow this type of fishing. It has not been the local fishing fleet that is doing it, and the state isn’t collecting any taxes or other revenue because the fish are generally landed in other states. And since they’re processed in other states, it’s not employing any Rhode Islanders in that industry either. We’re just allowing the quota to get used up and hauled away, leaving less for the smaller local vessels that do land here, hire Rhode Islanders and pay Rhode Island taxes,” said Representative Tanzi.
The legislation bans pair trawling until March 1, 2013, to provide time for the Department of Environmental Management to review regulations and hold public hearings on the issue.
The bill will now go to the Senate, where Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingston, Narragansett has filed companion legislation (2012-S 2357).