Guest speaker Lobsterman David Spencer reviewed the state of the commercial fishing industry in Rhode Island

As the guest speaker at Seamen’s Church Institute’s annual meeting on Monday, Nov. 14, Newport’s David Spencer, David Spencer, a lobsterman and president of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, reviewed the state of the commercial fishing industry in Rhode Island. Spencer has run his 85-foot lobster boat Nathaniel Lee out of Newport’s State Pier since 1973, and graciously supplies free lobsters for Seamen’s annual Rock the Docks fundraiser. “Back then, this was a vibrant fishing port, from south to north. It had many boats that docked here,” he said. “It was a good place to fish out of.” According to Spencer, present-day fleets gather quahogs, lobster, crabs, conch and a little known kind of shrimp in these waters.  Working “out front” in Rhode Island Sound waters and beyond, the lobster and crab fishery becomes one, “with an explosion of Jonah crabs, which has been a godsend for much of the fleet,” said Spencer. “There is a tremendous demand for these crabs,” which augment a depleted annual lobster catch. In the Ocean State, squid, lobster and crab “are king,” he continued.  Squid fishing off Martha’s Vineyard was unparalleled this year. Fishermen can see the bottom almost daily in 12 feet of water, Spencer said, giving the impression that the local sea is sterile rather than filled with organisms. Is this an unintended consequence of the chemicals that treat wastewater? “I don’t know, and neither do they,” he added, noting that starfish are “now gone.” Read the story here 16:09

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