Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Narragansett Baykeeper testifies for your right to fish in Cranston

By Mike Jarbeau, Narragansett Baykeeper

On Monday night, the Cranston City Council approved an ordinance that prohibits fishing from substantial part of the public access site at the end of Ocean Avenue, located adjacent to the Rhode Island Yacht Club. According to the City Council, and some residents who testified at the meeting in support of the ordinance, Ocean Avenue suffers from problems related to litter, noise, disorderly conduct and traffic congestion. The public access site is also a popular spot for fishermen, and much of the testimony attributed the issues directly to the fishing community.

Article I, Section 17 of the Rhode Island Constitution provides that “(t)he people shall continue to enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery… including but not limited to fishing from the shore.” The City of Cranston does not have the authority to regulate fishing, or to prevent any Rhode Islander from enjoying his or her Constitutional right to the resources of Narragansett Bay. The Department of Environmental Management issued a letter to the City Council last week reiterating this point.

The public access site at the end of Ocean Avenue. (Building
in the background is Rhode Island Yacht Club)
As advocates for public access to Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay spoke with residents, City Council members, the Rhode Island Yacht Club, and others in an attempt to encourage other solutions to the problems that have been identified. Having visited the area numerous times, we believe there is a way for all uses to coexist. Municipal trash receptacles could curb litter. A creative look at the parking situation could limit parking directly on the end of the road, which is a major source of congestion and limits the ability of others to enjoy the site.

I testified at the City Council meeting in opposition of the ordinance, along with the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association, the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association and several residents who agreed that a fishing ban is not the solution. Following the City Council’s vote, Save The Bay and others have petitioned Mayor Allan Fung to veto the ordinance. We are concerned about the precedent this ban sets in the state and hope Mayor Fung will take a stand in support of public access and the rights of the Rhode Island fishing community.