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HABS Marine Biotoxin Monitoring

Rhode Island’s coastal waters are occasionally impacted by harmful algae blooms (HAB) that have the potential to produce biotoxins that can sicken humans if they consume fish or shellfish contaminated by HAB toxins.

Shellfish are filter feeders and can accumulate biotoxins produced by these microscopic harmful algae to levels that can be poisonous. Cooking does not eliminate these toxins and consumption of contaminated shellfish can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain, and other serious health problems.

In August 2017, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and RI Department of Health (RIDOH) finalized revisions to the RI Harmful Algae Bloom and Shellfish Biotoxin Monitoring and Contingency Plan. The plan outlines the state’s routine HAB phytoplankton monitoring plan as well as more intensified monitoring of phytoplankton and shellfish should HAB abundance exceed action thresholds and/or evidence of toxin production is found. It also details contingency actions including emergency closures should conditions warrant.

Emergency closures are announced through local media outlets and on RIDEM’s 24- hour shellfish hotline at 401-222-2900.

All shellfish harvested from waters identified as closed due to harmful algae blooms must not be eaten regardless of being raw or cooked. Rhode Island has taken steps to ensure the safety and high quality of shellfish harvested from RI’s waters. RIDEM encourages all to be informed of the risks associated with marine biotoxins and simple steps to protect you and your family.




For the latest on shellfish closures, contact the DEM 24-hour shellfishing hotline at 401-222-2900.