The State of Rhode Island will transplant some 400,000 pounds of shellfish from overcrowded beds to cleaner waters of Narragansett Bay.

The announcement came last week after Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri said he would tap into the state's contingency fund for the $50,000 needed to move forward with project.

The state's Department of Environmental Management had previously said it would not be able to carry out the transplant program because of budget constraints.

The 2003 shellfish transplant program will be held in mid-May, with state environmental officials cooperating with local fishers to dig up adult quahogs, or clams, from overcrowded beds in Warwick Cove and Greenwich Cove.

The Rhode Island Health department will test the shellfish before they are placed in the High Banks Shellfish Management Area of the upper reaches of Narragansett Bay, where they will be afforded two years to grow and spawn before harvesting is permitted.

"As a Rhode Islander who spent my youthful summers shellfishing on the Bay and as an executive who understands the importance of this project to the shellfish industry and the state, I could not let this project stop," said Carcieri.

"This program is a prime example of the way state government must plan for the future," the Rhode Island governor said. "Just as we are seeding clean waters with quahogs for the coming years, we are planning and taking steps for the future in many other ways."

State officials say previous relocations of shellfish have helped to restore depleted fisheries in other areas of the bay included the vicinity of Quonset Point, Pine Hill and Hope Island.

Narragansett Bay Bay is a 25 mile long, 10 mile wide estuary with a watershed of some 1,800 square miles. It supports hundreds of species, including winter flounder, lobster, hard shell clams, eel grass and seals.
Provided by theEnvironmental News Service.