By ecoRI News staff
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has reclassified several areas of the state’s shellfish harvesting waters. Areas in Sakonnet Harbor, Kickemuit River and the East Passage of Narragansett Bay have been reclassified based on water-quality monitoring results. The changes take effect at sunrise May 28, along with seasonal shellfish closures.
“Having clean bays, rivers and coastal waters is vital to our state and our families,” DEM director Janet Coit said. “Digging for clams and other shellfish is a favorite pastime for Rhode Islanders and it also supports the livelihoods of our commercial shellfishermen. I am proud of the work our team and many partners are doing to ensure the vibrancy of our waters so we can continue to offer excellent shellfishing opportunities.”
Rhode Island has a diverse commercial fishing and seafood industry. Last year, nearly 100 million pounds of seafood arrived at Rhode Island ports. About 28 million shellfish were harvested from Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island coastal waters in 2015, according to DEM.
As a result of improved water-quality conditions, Sakonnet Harbor in Little Compton will open for shellfish harvesting on a seasonal basis this fall, according to DEM. It was previously closed year-round. This area is defined as south of a line from the light at the end of the Sakonnet breakwater to a point of land near the end of Goodrich Lane on the eastern shore of the harbor.
No changes in shellfish classification will go into effect this year for upper Narragansett Bay, according to DEM. However, monitoring following rain events allowed the Conimicut Triangle area to be opened an additional 11 days and Area A for 13 days in 2015. The lower portion of the Providence River is showing promise and may be reopened conditionally to shellfishing in future years, DEM officials said. But before this can happen, shellfish management plans must be developed to ensure long-term viability of the shellfish stock in the area.
Despite positive results from this year’s assessments, new closures will be put into effect for a few areas around Narragansett Bay. The Kickemuit River in Bristol and Warren will continue to be operated as a conditionally approved area. It will be closed to shellfish harvesting for a minimum of seven days after 0.5 inches or more of precipitation. The area also will be closed to shellfish harvesting during the month of January.
Also, nearly 5 acres in East Passage Cranston Cove in Jamestown will be closed to shellfish harvesting because of elevated bacteria levels. The area was previously open and is defined as East Passage GA6-5: the waters of Cranston Cove on the eastern shoreline in Jamestown, south and west of a line from the most southeastern in water structure of CRMC dock 771 — offshore of 530 East Shore Road — to the most northeastern in-water structure of CRMC dock 1924, offshore of 486 East Shore Road. The closure includes all waters bounded by said docks to the north and south.
Consistent with U.S. Food and Drug Agency requirements, DEM closes certain areas seasonally to the harvesting of shellfish because of potential water-quality impacts associated with marinas and mooring fields. The closures take effect May 28 and will expire at sunrise Oct. 11.
These areas include: Block Island (Great Salt Pond and Trims Pond); Bristol Harbor; Jamestown (Dutch Harbor area); Potter Cove (Prudence Island); Sakonnet Harbor (Little Compton); and Wickford Harbor (Fishing Cove).
In addition, the smaller marina closures in the south coastal ponds and the Kickemuit River will go into effect at the same time.