Part of Sakonnet River closed to shellfish harvesting

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Department of Environmental Management has closed part of the lower Sakonnet River to shellfishing, citing the detection of toxins in shellfish caught there.

The DEM had closed Rhode Island waters to shellfishing as a precaution on October 7, warning that an algae bloom could lead to the presence of a toxic substance – domoic acid – in harvested shellfish.

That closure was lifted on October 15 after none of the shellfish samples collected tested positive for the toxin, which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning in humans.

But on Wednesday, October 19, the DEM detected domoic acid in a batch of shellfish collected from the lower Sakonnet River, specifically Harvester Tagging Area 5C. That area is now closed to shellfish harvesting; the area is north of Sakonnet Point Light, south of an east-west line running one-quarter mile south of the pipeline south of Black Point, and east of a line running from Flint Point to Taggert’s Ferry in Middletown.

A map of the area affected is available on the DEM’s website.

Officials will collect and test additional samples “to determine if the toxin is present at levels of concern,” according to a DEM news release.

The DEM maintains a hotline for updated information on shellfish closures, 401-222-2900.