The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on Tuesday said that the precautionary shellfish harvesting closure for Narragansett Bay, Mt. Hope Bay, Kickemuit River, Sakonnet River and their tributaries will remain in effect until further notice.
According to a press release, water samples collected on Oct. 9 “still show high levels of phytoplankton in the Bay.” Authorities noted that the DEM and the Rhode Island Department of Health will continue to monitor water quality and shellfish meats to determine when waters will re-opened to shellfishing.
“DEM regularly monitors local waters for the presence of phytoplankton that can produce harmful algae blooms,” DEM noted in the release, adding that the closures were enacted on Friday and Saturday morning.
Since the closure, water samples have been taken every other day.
“Until Bay samples indicate the bloom is declining, efforts to collect local shellfish for analysis to determine if the toxins are present in shellfish meats at levels of concern will be suspended,” DEM reported.
DEM went on to note that the toxin, known as domoic acid, is produced by the phytoplankton. The toxin is responsible for causing amnesiac shellfish poisoning in people. Symptoms include short and long-term memory loss, as well as other serious health effects.
“Samples collected on October 9 from four of the coastal salt ponds show that Pseudo-nitzschia cells were absent or present at very low levels,” DEM said. “The ponds sampled include Winnapaug Pond, Pt. Judith Pond, Quonochontaug Pond, and Ninigret Pond.”
Shellfish meats were also collected by DEM from Narragansett Bay and aquaculture areas in southern Rhode Island coastal ponds. The samples were transported to Maine for analysis, with test results confirming that no toxin was present.
“As a result, RIDOH has released the inventory of shellfish collected last week, which were being held by dealers since the ban was enacted on October 6,” DEM said.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts regulators said Tuesday that several fishing areas in the southern coast and Buzzards Bay areas are no longer open to shellfishing due to the toxic bloom.
The state Division of Marine Fisheries says it has determined that the areas are unsafe for digging, harvesting or collecting shellfish.
The Massachusetts closure applies to fishing areas in Bourne, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Falmouth, Marion, Mattapoisett, Westport, New Bedford, Gosnold and Lackeys Bay in Gosnold.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)