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Hats off to Senator Whitehouse for another great Leaders Day

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Hats off to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and his staff for putting together the Energy, Environment and Oceans Leaders Day, Friday, Dec. 1, at the Rhode Island Convention Center. This is the 14th year the Senator has run the event.

About 200 invited guests gathered for the day to exchange information and learn about initiatives to protect the environment and humans.

Topics discussed included the impacts of greenhouse gases, methane use and leak detection, to the impacts of climate change on habitat, fish, our environment and humans.

Here are some highlights of the day …

Climate change impacts

Dr. Kim Cobb, director of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, reminded us of the devastating impacts climate change is having on the earth. Highlights included 2023 being the warmest year ever recorded, and the way things are going it could be the coolest year we will experience for the rest of our lives.

Other impacts this year include Vermont flooding (with more than nine inches of rain in 48 hours in some towns in July this year), more intense fires, warming ocean temperatures fueling more severe hurricanes, a reduced snowfall, and coral reef destruction intensifying. Dr. Cobb said, “Climate change is now costing us hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It is a public health, economic and national security threat.” 

Dr. Cobb highlighted the work of Dr. Timmons Rogers from the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. I have experienced his work firsthand, as he and his team have pushed forward information to the public to debunk the misinformation, false science, and half-truths regarding climate impacts and offshore wind energy in our region.

Fossil fuel consumption

Advocates suggest holding fossil fuel companies accountable for knowing about the harmful impacts of fossil fuels on the environment and then trying to cover up these impacts through misinformation like climate change denial campaigns. The effort may lead to the courtroom, where plaintiffs file suit against the fossil fuel industry, much like the tobacco company coverups and settlement.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, said, “Many believe that 40 years ago the oil and gas industry knew the consequences of burning fossil fuels.” He added that if they came forward with this information to help solve the challenge, we would be in a much different place today.

Environmental racism

Environmental justice, or as I learned Friday, some refer to it as environmental racism, has been going on for hundreds of years. Speakers on this panel highlighted how people of color simply have not had access to the environment.  The question was asked, “How many in this room have taken a hike, have been camping, or know how to swim … Well, many people of color have never had the opportunity or access to do these things.”

Darrell Brown, the Rhode Island vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, took exception about recent objections from some on Aquidneck Island relating offshore wind farms will disrupt their view (as windfarms will sit fifteen miles off the coast). Mr. Brown said, “They put a greater value on their view than the value of human lives impacted negatively by the burning of fossil fuels.”

Offshore wind

There was dialogue about NOAA moving forward with climate ready fisheries research and responsible offshore wind energy. The closing presentation at Leaders Day was made by Janet Coit, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and chief of NOAA Fisheries. Two key points included the agency’s charge to responsibly site and build offshore wind farms to help create a renewable energy resource for the nation and an initiative to deploy the climate research funding NOAA now has throughout the agency and its regional fishing councils to work toward climate ready fisheries to avoid stock crashes. 

“Climate impacts on habitat and fish have been devastating, like the crash of salmon stocks and the crab industry on the West Coast,” said Coit. “We need to enhance climate research on species distribution in the country and world.  We have frightening changes occurring in the environment, such as the impact of greenhouse gases, so we must scale up, and we have to make sure the siting and construction of large wind farms are done in a way that maintains a healthy environment.”

Assistant Administrator Coit pointed to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) NOAA did this yearwith BOEM on healthy oceans and wind farms.  “We have six wind farm projects developing now. There are still a lot of questions, but it is imperative to move forward,” said Coit.

Tribute to a great fishing community leader

Whenever I am faced with too much to do, I think of Steve Medeiros, founding president and executive director of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA). Rich Hittinger, first vice president of the association, said: “We now have four people doing the job that Steve used to do on his own.”

Hittinger made the comment Saturday, Dec. 2, at a ceremony to honor Steve Mederios who passed in 2021, during a dedication ceremony at the Stephen J. Medeiros Fishing Area at Black Point, Narragansett.

Scott Travers, Executive Director of RISAA, said, “Steve had an unmatched vision for how recreational saltwater anglers could band together and make a positive change. Steve made this vision a reality by founding the Association that grew to become ‘The Voice of Southern New England Fishermen.’ ”

In addition to naming the fishing area after Medeiros, two large fish identification boards will be displayed along the waterfront and a third board honoring Steve in the parking area.

Where’s the bite?

Tautog fishing and cod fishing: Call ahead to make a party boat reservation. Vessels generally sail between 5 and 7 a.m. and return in the afternoon. Visit www.islandcurrent.com, www.francesfleet.com and www.sevenbs.com.  Full day rates for vessels are generally $130 to $135 per adult and around $80 for those under 12 years old.

Freshwater fishing

For a complete list of trout stocked ponds in Massachusetts, visit Mass Wildlife at Trout stocking report | Mass.gov  and in Rhode Island visit www.dem.ri.gov/fishing, or call 401-789-0281 or 401-539-0019 for more information on trout stocking.

Dave Monti holds a captain’s license and charter fishing license. He serves on a variety of boards and commissions and has a consulting business focusing on clean oceans, habitat preservation, conservation, renewable energy, and fisheries related issues and clients. Forward fishing news and photos to dmontifish@verison.net or visit www.noflukefishing.com.

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