Monday, October 04, 2010

Rhode Island Delays Scallop Season and Opens New Sanctuaries

RIDEM recently announced that the State will create three new shellfish sanctuaries and will delay the opening of the scallop season by a month. This is all good news to our collective efforts to restore scallops, oysters, and quahogs to the Bay and Rhode Island's coastal salt ponds.

The official news release follows:


News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/ (401) 222-4462 http://www.dem.ri.gov/

For Release: September 27, 2010

Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402

DEM EXPANDS SHELLFISH SPAWNER SANCTUARIES FOR OYSTER RESTORATION AND ADPOTS NEW REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE HARVEST OF BAY SCALLOPS

The Department of Environmental Management announces the creation of three new shellfish spawner sanctuaries and the adoption of new harvest regulations to support oyster and bay scallop restoration efforts in RI marine waters.

Oyster Restoration
In what is believed to be the first, large-scale oyster restoration program in the US that principally involves oyster farmers, DEM and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have been partnering with 13 Rhode Island oyster famers in a program aimed at re-establishing a self-sustaining population of oysters in state waters.

The participating oyster farmers are skilled at growing market-ready oysters at their aquaculture sites, and they are applying that expertise to the public resource restoration project. With federal funds provided through NRCS, the farmers are responsible for obtaining certified seed on shell oyster larvae, growing out juvenile oysters for five months on their farms, and then transplanting the oysters to approved open water sites.

DEM is responsible for designating the sites, ensuring that they are protected, and authorizing and overseeing the placement of the stocked oysters at the sites, which now stretch throughout Narragansett Bay and the coastal ponds. Since 2008, over 11 million oysters have been seeded. Another nine million oysters are about ready to be stocked this fall.

To date, there have only been three shellfish spawner sanctuaries in RI marine waters with habitat suitable for seeding oysters -- designated portions of Winnapaug and Ninigret Ponds in South County, and in Jenny’s Creek on Prudence Island. These are the areas that have been stocked to date. Shellfishing is prohibited in the sanctuaries (except for the taking of bay scallops by dip net, which is allowed in the Winnapaug and Ninigret santuaries). The sanctuaries provide the necessary protection for the oyster seed, enabling the animals to grow and serve as brood stock.

Due to the large numbers of oysters now available for planting and in the interest of distributing them broadly, DEM Director W. Michael Sullivan last month authorized the designation of three new shellfish sanctuaries in Quonochontaug Pond and Potter Pond/Sycamore Cove in South County, and in the Bissel Cove/Fox Island Shellfish Management Area in Narragansett Bay along the North Kingstown shoreline. The metes and bounds of the sites are set forth in Part 4 of the DEM Marine Fisheries Regulations; they are also graphically depicted below.

The new Quonochontaug Pond sanctuary is a 14-acre area along the eastern shoreline of the pond. All shellfishing is now prohibited in the sanctuary (except for the taking of bay scallops by dip net). A moratorium on the talking of oysters from anywhere in Quonochontaug Pond has also been established. The sanctuary and moratorium will remain in effect for three years.

The Potter Pond/Sycamore Cove sanctuary is a 10.5 acre area that encompasses the northern half of Sycamore Cove. All shellfishing is now prohibited in the sanctuary (except for the taking of bay scallops by dip net). The sanctuary will remain in effect for three years.

The Bisssel Cove/Fox Island site is an existing shellfish management area that includes all of Bissel Cove and the waters between the mouth of the cove and Fox Island. The taking of oysters from the management area is now prohibited, but all other shellfish – e.g., quahogs and soft-shell clams – may continue to be harvested from the area in accordance with applicable regulations. The oyster moratorium will remain in effect for five years.


Bay Scallop Protection and Restoration

In support of the ongoing bay scallop restoration efforts being undertaken by DEM, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Save The Bay, DEM is delaying the opening season for bay scallop harvest by one month, to the first Saturday of November. This will provide more of an opportunity for the brood stock to spawn before harvest. Several studies have demonstrated that scallops are spawning later in the season and producing multiple spawns, including one in late season.

Also, because stock densities remain low, DEM has reduced the commercial daily possession limit to 3 bushels (from 5 bushels). Finally, the use of dredges to harvest bay scallops from shellfish spawner sanctuaries has been prohibited to protect new recruits and reduce impact on eel grass.

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