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Rhode Island

Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater Fishing

CRMC Aquaculture Permitting Process

Public fisheries engagement in the CRMC Aquaculture Permitting Process

By Julia Livermore, Peter Duhamel, and Anna Gerber-Williams (RI DEM Division of Marine Fisheries) and Ben Goetsch (Coastal Resources Management Council)

In recent years, aquaculture applications in Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island’s coastal ponds have increased significantly, and some coastal salt ponds are nearing their ecological carrying capacity, as defined by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) at 650-RICR-20-00-1.3.1(K)(5)(a)(20). Public input about fishing activities in and around proposed sites is essential to inform the decision-making process and assure proper management of the state’s coastal waters.

The permitting process includes opportunities for public input. For all applications, the initial step is a CRMC Preliminary Determination (PD) meeting hosted by the local municipality to engage the public in a discussion on project siting and design. Public input on fishing activity around proposed sites is most effective when heard early (and often) in the process, as aquaculture applicants have greater flexibility to adjust their application at the PD stage. Following the PD meeting, the applicant may then proceed to submit a formal application (either modified or unmodified since the PD meeting) for a CRMC Public Notice, which includes a 30-day public comment period and instructions for submitting written comments. It is at this stage that public comments are most important, as all comments will be included as part of the CRMC aquaculture file public record.

In addition to CRMC-required public meetings, all applications are reviewed by the RI Marine Fisheries Council (RIMFC), which along with DEM, serves in an advisory role to CRMC in the aquaculture permitting process. Pursuant to R.I. General Laws § 20-10-5(d) the Council shall review aquaculture applications to determine if the activities proposed are “consistent with competing uses engaged in the exploitation of the marine fisheries”. All applications are initially reviewed by the RIMFC’s Shellfish Advisory Panel (SAP). While RIMFC and SAP meetings are open to the public and may provide an opportunity for public involvement, these meetings are for panel decisions and generally not an opportunity for formal public comment. Interested persons are strongly encouraged to engage directly to CRMC at the PD meeting, CRMC public hearing, or in writing during the application public notice comment period. In reaching their final decision, the CRMC Council will consider all comments, recommendations from CRMC staff, DEM, and the RIMFC.

Please note that CRMC is currently considering certain changes to the aquaculture permitting process through their Aquaculture Element Working Group. Please refer to the CRMC aquaculture website for additional details:

Get Involved!

To subscribe to CRMC’s aquaculture listserv, go to Recipients will receive meeting notifications and copies of draft applications.

All CRMC Council, RIMFC, and SAP meetings are subject to the Open Meetings Act and are noticed with the Secretary of State. For meeting notifications filed with the Sec. of State, go to

To subscribe to the Division of Marine Fisheries listserv, send an email to [email protected] Recipients will receive emails with fisheries-related meeting notifications, fishery management changes, etc.