Bay Scallop Seeding May Benefit Buzzards Bay Towns

Scallops Buzzards Bay recreational fishermen may soon have access to improved scallop, oyster and quahog populations in town waters for recreational harvests, thanks to settlement funding being used by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and The Nature Conservancy to restore natural resources injured by a 2003 oil spill near the bay’s entrance.

In April 2003, the Bouchard Transportation Co. Barge-120 spilled about 98,000 gallons of fuel oil into Buzzards Bay. The oil spread along more than 90 miles of shoreline and affected wildlife, shellfish beds, recreational activities and habitat. Eight years later, natural resource agencies secured a $6 million settlement to restore wildlife, shoreline and aquatic resources and lost recreational uses.

With the settlement money, the Buzzards Bay/Bouchard B-120 Trustee Council — the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and state agencies from Massachusetts and Rhode Island — has funded 26 projects. Nature Conservancy bay scallop and oyster restoration projects and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries quahog and oyster restoration work are among the recently funded projects. These restoration efforts are targeting recreational shellfisheries within the impacted Buzzards Bay communities.

“Recreational shellfisheries were tragically affected by the Bouchard spill, with some municipal harvesting areas closed for 6 months or longer during the peak harvest season due to the oiling,” said John Bullard, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.

The two settlement-funded conservancy shellfish projects are underway. In early June, the conservancy, in collaboration with Bourne municipal shellfish officials, deployed 7,500 caged adult bay scallops in town waters. The goal is to create a spawner sanctuary as an effective way of restoring sustainable bay scallop populations and supporting seasonal recreational shellfishing.

“Bay scallops are a historically and culturally significant species,” said Steve Kirk, the conservancy’s Massachusetts coastal restoration ecologist. “While populations have always fluctuated, we want to bring them back by creating spawner areas to ultimately boost the wild population.”

In collaboration with the town of Fairhaven, the conservancy is using additional settlement money to restore a 1-acre oyster bed in Nasketucket Bay.

Read more about efforts to restore and enhance the bay scallop fishery in Buzzards Bay.