Buzzards Bay watersehd map
Buzzards Bay is a moderately large estuary located in southeastern Massachusetts between the western-most portion of Cape Cod and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. It drains approximately 432 square miles of land, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and groundwater into Buzzards Bay. The bay itself is approximately 228 square miles in size and has a coastline which stretches over 280 miles. The coastline of Buzzards Bay offers a wealth of diverse habitats including 5,000 acres of salt marsh, 10,500 acres of eelgrass beds, and 5,000 acres of tidal flats, which is essential to the marine life in and around the bay.

This unique estuarine environment provides habitat for numerous plant and animal species, including two of the largest colonies of roseate terns (a federally endangered bird) in North America located on Bird Island in Marion and Ram Island in Mattapoisett. The bay is also home to over 13,000 recreational boats and is world renown for its sailing opportunities. Ironically, the bay itself was named after a large bird, identified as a buzzard, which the early colonists saw frequenting the shoreline along the bay. In actuality, the large buzzard was an osprey. Buzzards Bay was designated an Estuary of National Significance in 1988. The Buzzards Bay Watershed encompasses all or part of 15 municipalities including the entire City of New Bedford, which is consistently one of the largest revenue-producing fishing ports in the United States.

Watershed Priorities

  • Improve impaired water quality due to non-point source pollution, especially the impacts of pathogens on shellfish beds and swimming beaches
  • Reduce the impacts of excess nitrogen on the health of coastal embayments throughout the watershed
  • Conserve open space, including working natural resources, farms, forests, and aquifer lands
  • Promote habitat protection and restoration efforts such as wetland restoration dam removal, fishway improvements, vernal pool protection, and others
  • Improve protection and management of drinking water resources

Watershed Successes

The completion of: a watershed video "Currents of Change" that looks at the bay and its watershed and discusses improvements over the past decade as well as the issues and challenges that still lie ahead; an inventory of all stormwater discharges and catch basins leading to the bay and a detailed bay-wide inventory of salt marsh hydraulic restrictions (the Buzzards Bay Project); and a non-point source pollution assessment of the head of the Westport area along the east branch of the Westport River. The collection of vernal pool certification data for more than 70 pools on public and private lands over the past two springs.

Looking Ahead


Bay Pond
In the coming months, the following issues will be worked on in the watershed:

  • A regional open space plan for the watershed to help target land acquisition efforts
  • Continuation of vernal pool certification efforts
  • An inventory of freshwater wetland restoration sites in the bay
  • A fish waste processing pilot project with New Bedford
  • An education effort on the Plymouth/Carver sole source aquifer
  • A wetlands education project and a greenway planning project

Watershed Links

Buzzards Bay Oil Spill Update 2008 pdf format of buzzards_bay_2008.pdf
Buzzards Bay Project National Estuary Program
Westport River Watershed Alliance
Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD)
The Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies
The Buzzards Bay Coalition


This information is provided by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Office of Water Policy