PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that seasonal shellfish area closures will take effect at sunrise on Saturday, May 25, and will remain in place until Tuesday, October 15. Consistent with federal requirements, DEM closes some local waters to the harvesting of shellfish every year at this time due to potential water quality impacts associated with marinas and mooring fields. The areas are within:
Bristol Harbor – Dutch Harbor Area, Jamestown – Fishing Cove, Wickford Harbor – Great Salt Pond and Trims Pond, Block Island – Potter Cove, Prudence Island – Sakonnet Harbor, Little Compton.
In addition, the smaller marina closures in the southern coastal ponds, Fort Wetherill, and the Kickemuit River in Warren will go into effect on May 25.
No changes are being made this year related to the classification of shellfishing grounds. The Upper Narragansett Bay Conditionally-Approved area 1D will remain in effect until further notice while DEM continues to evaluate the impact of efforts to eliminate bacteria sources in the Buckeye Brook watershed.
In 2017 DEM announced that it was lifting rainfall-related shellfishing restrictions for parts of Upper Narragansett Bay for the first time in 70 years (Conditional Area B was changed to Approved). In 2018 DEM expressed hope about reopening a section of the lower Providence River as a new conditional area within a year. DEM has made progress working to finalize the details of a conditional area and drafting a prospective shellfish management plan to make that hope a reality and plans to complete these efforts later this year.
Such an action – which would allow for the harvest of shellfish from the Providence River for the first time in more than 70 years – shows water quality improvements resulting from decades of intense efforts to clean up Providence River and Narragansett Bay, most notably improvements by the Narragansett Bay Commission to reduce the discharge of combined sewer overflows.
Rhode Island shellfish are much sought-after seafood because of a long history of delivering a high-quality product. This is achieved by diligent monitoring of shellfish harvesting waters, protecting public health with a high level of oversight when conditions indicate a change in water quality either from natural sources such as algae blooms or by the quick response to emergency conditions. DEM, Rhode Island Department of Health, and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council along with industry partners collaborate to ensure that shellfish grown and harvested from RI waters continues to be a quality safe seafood product to be enjoyed by all consumers.
For more information on the shellfish harvesting reclassification, review the annual notice available at RIDEM – Shellfish. An interactive shellfishing map is also available.