Preserving and protecting fish stocks

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 5:45pm

Several weeks ago, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management Enforcement Division, led by Chief Dean Hoxsie, former police chief and acting town manager of Narragansett, performed an operation called Operation Level Playing Field. This operation was to monitor and deter people coming from all over into our Rhode Island waters and catching our fish in abundance and selling the fish in different states, with no licensing or permission to do so. This risks our fish stocks and violates state and federal laws on many levels.

Chief Hoxsie, without being asked, started conducting these sweeps in waters all over the state, but especially focusing in areas in Block Island on his own initiative. Being a fisherman himself, as was his father Forrest Hoxsie, (of Narragansett), Chief Hoxsie understood the importance of preserving and protecting our fish stocks.

Numerous encounters with charter fishing vessels and private vessels led to violations issued to those breaking the law, and it sent a chilling effect on illegal fishing in our waters for the first time ever. Fish seized as a result were donated to a charitable soup kitchen or sold to dealers and the money was frozen in an account aimed at conservation of Rhode Island fish and shellfish.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. It was with sadness and disgust that our local fisherman and residents could observe these scofflaws openly taking numerous fish for years, illegally, and no one would listen. Because of Chief Hoxsie’s efforts, the practice is being seriously impacted and those that would break the law are wary.

I am a dinner-plate spear fisherman, and I have seen violations over which I have no authority to enforce as a police chief, which has bothered me for years. We tried to change the laws so the police could enforce the fishery laws, to no avail. Chief Hoxsie also came up with and led that initiative. It is unfortunate that getting things done in this state is very difficult, but we will continue to try. Chief Hoxsie’s idea was to partner with Block Island police and harbors to further protect our waters. It was a good idea then and still is now.

Thank you, Chief Dean Hoxsie and the Environmental Police Officers under your command, for caring about Block Island and our fisheries. Please continue this initiative going forward in the future; I believe it is very important to the health and welfare of our state and especially Block Island.

Vin Carlone is the Chief of the New Shoreham Police Department.