Narragansett Bay is the center of Rhode Island's natural, historic and cultural geography. Today, the bay's most important economic uses are recreation and tourism-outdoor recreational activities on the bay are valued at $2 billion per year.
Narragansett Bay's watershed encompasses 1600 square miles; 60 percent in Massachusetts and 40 percent in Rhode Island. There are more than 3500 acres of marshes and other coastal wetlands on Narragansett Bay and about 100 acres of seagrass beds. More than 60 species of fish and shellfish, and more than 200 species of birds, depend on the bay's habitats. Narragansett Bay produces about 8 million pounds of quahuags (hard clams) annually, with a landed value of $6 million. The bay's recreational fishery is valued at more than $300 million per year. More than 13,000 recreational boats are berthed on Narragansett Bay, while tens of thousands more are trailered to the bay from neighboring states.
Toxic metals levels in Narragansett Bay have decreased by 90 percent over the past 20 years. Nutrient loadings to the bay are at historically high levels and as a result there are intermittent problems with dissolved oxygen. Twenty five percent of Rhode Island's designated shellfishing areas do not meet shellfishing area water quality standards. Although the upper bay once supported extensive seagrass beds, they are now found only in the southern half of Narragansett Bay. Bay scallops, once abundant in the bay, declined in the 1950s and have not recovered. Ninety three percent of Rhode Island's assessed estuarine waters support swimming.
Information courtesy of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program