The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that seasonal shellfish area closures will take effect at sunrise on Saturday, May 28, and will remain in place until Tuesday, Oct. 11. Consistent with federal requirements, DEM announces changes in shellfish harvest area closures in local waters every year at this time due to potential water quality impacts associated with marinas and mooring fields. The seasonal closure areas are within:
o Bristol Harbor
o Dutch Harbor Area, Jamestown
o Fishing Cove, Wickford Harbor
o Great Salt Pond and Trims Pond, Block Island
o Potter Cove, Prudence Island
o Sakonnet Harbor, Little Compton
In addition, small seasonal marina closures in the southern coastal ponds, Fort Wetherill/Jamestown, and the Kickimuit River in Warren also will go into effect on May 28.
No 2022 Shellfish Classification Changes
DEM scientists evaluate shellfish harvest area water quality in May of each year. This year they are recommending no changes in shellfish water quality classification. In recent years, improvements in water quality have allowed for increased shellfish harvest opportunities and the reclassification of areas from prohibited to conditionally approved for shellfish harvest. Decades of investment in wastewater treatment plant upgrades and the capture of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) have allowed for increased shellfish harvest opportunities in the upper Narragansett Bay. Most notably, in 2021 and for the first time in 75 years (since records are available), a 1,900-acre portion of the lower Providence River was opened to shellfish harvesting. The May 2022 shellfish water quality assessment showed that improved water quality in these areas continues to support safe shellfish harvest.
“A cleaner bay means more shellfishing,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “This supports our economy, diggers, seafood dealers, restaurants, and markets who help increase consumer demand for local shellfish and seafood. This week is Quahog Week when we celebrate the cultural and economic importance of the local quahog and raise awareness of local seafood and the RI Seafood brand. Decades of actions and investments at all levels of government, including implementation of permitting and compliance programs to address Rhode Island’s industrial history, reduction of bacteria levels from projects like the combined sewer overflow systems built and operated by the Narragansett Bay Commission, the elimination of thousands of household cesspools, and many other actions have resulted in a Narragansett Bay that is cleaner and healthier than in generations.”
Quahogs are the most economically important fishery resource harvested from Narragansett Bay. More than 14 million quahogs were landed in 2021. Among all inshore and offshore marine fisheries, quahogs are the state’s fifth-most valuable, following squid, scallops, lobster, and summer flounder (based on 2021 ex-vessel values).
Nearly 40 participating restaurants and markets are featuring quahog-inspired menu items and deals this week. Tonight, DEM will be holding its second public event to allow Rhode Islanders to meet hardworking quahoggers from the RI Shellfishermen’s Association. Diggers will be shucking and serving complimentary littlenecks at Quahog Night Providence, 5-8 PM, at Narragansett Beer Providence Brewery, 271 Tockwotten St., Providence. The event is free and open to the public.
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