JWU Unites Rhode Island to Boost Seafood Economy

JWU Assoc Provost James Griffin, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Save the Bay's John Torgan, JWU Provost Veera Gaul“Local” and “sustainable” are more than buzzwords. They’re crucial elements to building a strong seafood economy in Rhode Island, according to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, local chef Derek Wagner '99, marine biologists, economists and industry experts who recently gathered at Johnson & Wales University.

JWU co-hosted "Developing the RI Seafood Knowledge Economy: Perspectives on Seafood Sustainability" with URI and the Rhode Island Sea Grant.

The Challenge: Making RI’s Seafood Economy Sustainable
Rhode Island’s pristine coastline is the centerpiece of the state’s identity and economy. It's also under threat and in urgent need of help, said Whitehouse.

“New regulations, high gas prices and ecological changes happening in the bay are stressing our fishing community right now.”

To truly make a difference, he emphasized, “we need to develop an infrastructure to get ahead of these changes. We also need to be caretakers of our natural resources.”

Chef Derek Wagner '99 advocates for local seafoodFinding Local Solutions to Benefit Industry and Consumers
The symposium focused on finding innovative solutions to boost the state’s $100 million fishing industry.

There are positive signs of progress. Wagner’s restaurant Nicks on Broadway was one of the first local restaurants to use Trace and Trust, a Rhode Island-based seafood distribution network that certifies every fish they sell.

By selling locally, fishermen can lock in better prices. “In-season products taste better and are more affordable. So chefs and consumers benefit too — it’s win-win,” Wagner noted.

In addition, URI's Graduate School of Oceanography has introduced a Sustainable Seafood Initiative as a consumer resource for eco-labeling, nutritional value and local certification.

The Local Catch from RI WatersBuilding a Bright Future for Narragansett Bay
With chefs, scientists, economists, policy makers and fishermen all collaborating on solutions, the future is looking a little brighter for local waters.

“We’re creating the demand to drive change,” said Wagner.

The conference also marks the first step in an ongoing collaboration between JWU and URI around the topic of sustainability. “We have an open door to engage with them in a way that we haven’t before,” said James Griffin EdD '88, '92 MS, JWU’s associate provost.

Griffin predicts huge benefits for students and faculty. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to expose them to the emerging science and practice of sustainable seafood right here in Narragansett Bay.”