Algae Bloom Closes Some R.I. Waters to Shellfishing

By ecoRI News staff

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Department of Health (DOH) have closed areas of Rhode Island Sound, lower Narragansett Bay south of the Newport Pell and Jamestown Verrazzano bridges, and lower Sakonnet River to shellfish harvesting.

The closure began March 1 at sunrise and will continue until further notice. The closure is due to a harmful algae bloom caused by the phytoplankton Pseudo-nitzschia spp. The closure excludes carnivorous snails, such as whelk and moon snails.

Impacted waters include all state waters north of a line from Point Judith to the southern tip of Gooseberry Neck, off Horseneck Beach in Westport Mass., and south from the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, south from the Newport Pell Bridge and south of an east/west line across the Sakonnet River lying a quarter-mile south of the pipeline found just south of Black Point.

The shellfishing closure stems from shellfish samples collected Feb. 26 and Feb. 27 from five lower Narragansett Bay locations off Jamestown, Newport and Little Compton. The samples were tested by DOH for the presence of domoic acid.  Levels of concern were found in shellfish at four locations, with domoic acid levels ranging from 14-32 parts per million; the action level for mandatory closure of shellfishing waters established by the Food and Drug Administration is 20 parts per million.

In the coming days, DEM and DOH will collect additional shellfish samples from both affected waters and waters unaffected by the recent announcement to further evaluate the bloom. A similar bloom led to shellfishing closures last fall.

Update March 23 at 1:47 p.m.: DEM announced that effective at sunrise March 24 it will lift the emergency shellfishing closure for areas of Rhode Island Sound, lower Narragansett Bay south of the Newport Pell and Jamestown Verrazzano bridges, and lower Sakonnet River.