For the first time in decades, shellfishing off the coast of Touisset will be allowed conditionally, a sign of an increasingly healthy bay according to environmental officials.
A 515-acre area of water off the coast of Touisset Point in Warren has been re-designated as a conditional zone open to shellfishing for the first time in decades, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced in a press release this week.
“Recent improvements in wastewater treatment and combined sewer overflow (CSO) capture in Fall River, Mass…have resulted in improved water quality throughout Mount Hope Bay,” the release states. “DEM’s tests showed that these improvements have allowed water quality in the bay — an estuary that’s powered by tide, current, and winds — off Touisset Point to meet national standards for safe shellfish harvest during dry weather for the past several years. Also, tissue analyses for bacteria and heavy metals conducted by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) have shown that shellfish in these waters meet national standards. This area is now part of the Mount Hope Bay shellfish conditional area. As such, it will be open for shellfish harvest during dry weather but will close for seven days if more than a half-inch of rain falls over a 24-hour period.”
This development means that the area off Touisett Point, which stretches to the border of Massachusetts to the east, will be open to shellfishing as of this Sunday, May 28, at sunrise. It will remain open until Oct. 10 so long as the quality of the water remains consistent.
For years, the area had been a part of Mt. Hope Bay that had been totally prohibited from shellfishing — from Touisset Point all the way southeast to the shores of Tiverton. The opening connects to a larger existing conditional area that goes west in Warren and stretches up to the mouth of the Kickemuit River, and proceeds south and southwest west along the coast of Bristol.
DEM officials proclaimed the opening of the area as another sign that the health of the Bay is continuing to improve.
“From the opening of the Providence River to quahogging for the first time in 75 years in 2021, to the opening of new shellfishing grounds in Greenwich Bay in 2022, to the Mount Hope Bay reopening in 2023, the trend toward better water quality in Narragansett Bay is clear,” said DEM Director Terry Gray in the press release. “The improvements propelling this progress — replacing and phasing out outmoded cesspools that pollute groundwater, upgrading wastewater treatment facilities, and improving collection and treatment of stormwater — have not come cheaply, but they’ve been worth every penny, because the bay is cleaner and healthier than it’s been in generations.”
Other openings and closings
Within the same release, DEM also announced shellfish harvest area closures in local waters because of potential water quality impacts associated with marinas and mooring fields. The seasonal closure 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, small seasonal marina closures in the southern coastal ponds, Fort Wetherill, and the Kickemuit River in Warren will also go into effect on May 27.
Along with the shellfishing acres being opened in Mount Hope Bay, DEM is reclassifying a five-acre parcel near the entrance to Nanaquaket Pond in Tiverton from prohibited to approved for shellfish harvest. Per the release:
“This area had a precautionary shellfish closure because of the historic presence of a seafood processing facility near these waters. The facility, however, is no longer in operation, so the potential for accidental bacterial contamination of shellfish waters has been removed and the historic precautionary closure of this area may now be safely lifted. DEM water quality testing also supports this reclassification. This opening takes effect at sunrise on May 27.”