The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is accepting applications for new and renewed commercial fishing licenses through Friday, February 28. Although 2020 is a leap year, that does not extend the deadline date. A limited number of new commercial fishing licenses for the harvest of shellfish are available this year for Rhode Island residents. Any resident aged 65 or older as of February 28, 2020, may obtain a 65 and Over Shellfish License, and any resident who is a full-time student and under the age of 23 as of June 30, 2020, may obtain a Student Shellfish License. Both licenses allow for the commercial harvest of quahogs.
New endorsement opportunities for Rhode Island residents are as follows:
36 new quahog endorsements will be issued on the Commercial Fishing License (CFL) that allow for the commercial harvest of quahogs. Six new soft shell clam endorsements will be issued on the CFL that allow for the commercial harvest of soft shell clams.
In addition, 15 new restricted finfish endorsements, available to both residents and non-residents, will be issued this year on the Principal Effort License (PEL). The restricted finfish endorsement allows for the commercial harvest of any of the five species of restricted finfish: summer flounder, scup, striped bass, black sea bass, and tautog.
“Offering a limited number of new commercial fishing licenses annually strikes the right balance between ensuring there are new opportunities and new people entering the commercial fishing industry – which is imperative in an industry that’s central to Rhode Island’s identity and culture, but which is growing older – and protecting the livelihoods of the existing members of the industry,” said DEM Deputy Director for Natural Resources Jason McNamee. “We think this is a thoughtful and measured approach that helps the industry and helps the state.”
Applications for the new endorsements must be filed with DEM by February 28, 2020. The applications will be reviewed and the new endorsements awarded according to the priority selection process set forth in the Commercial and Recreational Saltwater Fishing Licensing Regulations (click on Regulation tab).
Rhode Island residents also may obtain, without limits or restrictions, new CFLs with the following endorsements: shellfish other, non-restricted finfish, and non-lobster crustacean. Any non-resident may obtain a new commercial license with a non-restricted finfish endorsement. Applications for all new licenses must be filed with DEM by February 28, 2020. Interested applicants are encouraged to review all guidance documents and applications posted on dem.ri.gov.
In 2018 DEM launched an education and certification program that is mandatory for everyone who commercially harvests and lands shellfish in RI. The goal of the program is to ensure that shellfish harvesters deliver a safe product to shellfish dealers and, in turn, to shellfish consumers. In accordance with US FDA requirements and regulations adopted by DEM, holders of all applicable commercial licenses and landing permits must obtain certification by completing a 30-minute online tutorial prior to license issuance. The certification requirement applies to both license/permit renewals and new licenses/permits; all certificates are valid for five years, after which re-certification will be required.
Commercial fishers are reminded that the marine license year runs from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. The renewal period runs from January 1 through February 28, 2020, for Multi-Purpose License holders, PEL holders, CFL holders, and Shellfish Over-65 License holders. Student Shellfish License holders may renew or obtain a new license through June 30, 2020. A late fee renewal period for certain license holders – Shellfish Over-65, Multi-Purpose, PEL and CFL holders – runs from February 29 through April 28, 2020, and includes a $200 late fee in addition to the cost of the license. Renewals are not available after April 28, 2020.
Commercial licenses may be renewed online through April 28 via DEM’s website. License holders are reminded that prior to license renewal, all log books must be up-to-date with DEM’s Marine Fisheries Program located at 3 Fort Wetherill Road in Jamestown. For questions concerning the log books, please call the Marine Fisheries office at 401-423-1926. DEM’s Boat Registration and Licensing Office will not accept log books.
Recreational Freshwater Fishing Licenses for 2020 Season Available Soon.
DEM reminds anglers that the freshwater fishing season runs from March 1 through February 28. Regardless of when they were purchased, recreational freshwater fishing licenses, along with recreational shellfish and combination licenses for the 2019 season, will expire on February 29, 2020. Licenses for the 2020 season will be available online and will be valid from March 2020 through February 2021.
The recreational saltwater fishing season runs on a calendar-year basis, and the recreational saltwater fishing license is valid from January through December.