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Home > BART > Eating Fish from Narragansett Bay


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(May 15 to Oct. 15)

Eating Fish from Narragansett Bay

The waters of Rhode Island yield finfish and shellfish that are tasty and nutritious. Most of the commercial catch comes from off the coast, but the state's famous quahogs are hand harvested from the Bay. Since bivalves (clams, oysters, and mussels) are more or less stuck, filter feeding the water where they happen to be, they are vulnerable to pollutants. Finfish, too, absorb contaminants such as mercury.

In cooperation with the private sector, state and federal agencies regulate food safety. Monitoring seafood is among the most important, regular duties of the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH). If a state fishery presents an unacceptable risk, HEALTH and DEM close it. In cooperation with federal authorities, HEALTH also issues advisories - recommendations to restrict the amount or kind of fish that people eat.

Of course, no system of regulation is perfect. Seafood that is poached from a closed area or improperly cleaned, stored, or prepared can make people sick. Some people should avoid seafoods entirely. Likewise, it is always possible that some hazard is yet to be discovered. Since recreational anglers operate more independently, they must be especially mindful of closures and advisories. (See also "Fishing in Narragansett Bay")

With these caveats, consumers can be confident that seafood sold and served in Rhode Island is safe to eat.

What should I do?
Follow common-sense precautions:
  • Purchase seafood from a licensed restaurant or market.
  • Don't eat anything that looks or smells suspicious.
  • Learn about potential hazards, especially dietary recommendations for small children and women who are nursing or pregnant. (e.g., see links below)
  • If you experience illness that may be related to something you ate, seek medical assistance.
More information on-line

For General Information 222-6800 • After Hours Emergencies 222-3070 • Disclaimer
rev. 7/8/14