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A review of shellfish restoration and management projects in Rhode Island
Journal of Shellfish Research (2000)
  • Michael A Rice, University of Rhode Island
  • April Valliere
  • Angela Caporelli

Shellfish management and restoration efforts in Rhode Island date back to the 19th century. From the late 1890s to the Second World War the Rhode Island Fisheries Commission operated a lobster hatchery in Wickford Harbor in response to a perceived decline in lobster catches in Narragansett Bay. Berried lobsters were collected, eggs hatched, larvae reared, and postlarval fifth stage juveniles were released into the bay. The project was discontinued primarily because of costs and a failure to demonstrate the efficacy of juvenile seeding in improving lobster catches. From the 1930s to the 1980s, there have been several similar efforts to establish hatcheries to produce juvenile bivalve mollusks for public and private reseeding efforts, but none of these efforts were economically sustainable. The longest efforts to improve shellfisheries have been the state programs to relay northern quahogs, Mercenaria mercenaria, from dense population assemblages in waters closed to shellfishing. Large-scale relays began in the 1950s in response to heavy fishing pressure but ended in the 1960s when commercial power dredging for shellfish was banned in Narragansett Bay. A small-scale program existing since the late 1970s pays a modest fee to supervised shellfishers for hand digging quahogs in closed waters and planting them in management areas for depuration and eventual harvest. The amounts of shellfish varied widely since 1977, ranging between 7 and 322 metric tonnes, with an average of 98 metric tonnes per year. A new relay program has been underway since 1997. It involves assessing the shellfish stocks in the closed Providence River and hiring dredge boats to relay shellfish into down bay management areas. Based on maximum sustainable yield (MSY) considerations, annual relays should not exceed 10.3% of the standing crop (or 2721 metric tonnes) in the Providence River. An effort to restore lobsters into monitored artificial reefs is underway using settlement finds from a 1989 oil spill in Narragansett Bay. Finally, the Rhode Island Public Benefit Aquaculture Project, a joint educational effort with commercial fisheries involvement, is involving secondary level students in nursery culture of shellfish (through marina-based upwellers) for seeding public shellfish beds.

  • Shellfisheries,
  • Homarus,
  • Mercenaria,
  • Shellfish restoration,
  • Crassostrea
Publication Date
June, 2000
Citation Information
Michael A Rice, April Valliere and Angela Caporelli. "A review of shellfish restoration and management projects in Rhode Island" Journal of Shellfish Research Vol. 19 Iss. 1 (2000)
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