Bouchard Barge 120

Cleanup workers collect oiled debris from sand beach, South Dartmouth, MA.
Cleanup workers collect oiled debris from sand beach, South Dartmouth, MA.

“The B-120 restoration funds will restore or enhance ecologically important bay habitats and improve access to Buzzards Bay and recreational shellfishing opportunities for the public.”  

James Turek
NOAA Restoration Ecologist


James Turek
NOAA Restoration Center
Narragansett, RI
(401) 782-3338

Bouchard Barge 120

Oil Spill | Massachusetts and Rhode Island | April 2003


What Happened?

On April 27, 2003, the tank barge Bouchard 120 hit a bedrock ledge in Buzzards Bay. The impact created a 12-foot rupture in the barge’s hull. An estimated 98,000 gallons of oil spilled into the coastal waters of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.


What Were the Impacts?

Nearly 100 miles of shoreline were oiled, impacting tidal marshes, mudflats, beaches, and rocky shorelines. A number of bird species were killed or injured, including piping plover and roseate tern, both federally protected species. The spill also injured fish, shellfish, and other aquatic life, and prompted restrictions on beach access, shellfishing, and boating.


What’s Happening Now?

In 2018, a $13.3 million settlement was reached to restore shorebird and shellfish impacted by the spill. 

In 2017, the Trustees sought public input for proposed restoration projects to restore shoreline and aquatic resource injuries resulting from the spill. Three projects are proposed:

  • Round Hill salt marsh restoration in Dartmouth, MA;
  • Removal of the Horseshoe Pond dam for fish passage restoration in Wareham, MA; and
  • Installation of conservation boat moorings for eelgrass restoration in various embayments in Buzzards Bay.

In 2011, NOAA and it co-Trustees reached a partial settlement of more than $6 million with the Bouchard Transportation Company. The settlement fully addressed claims for injuries to aquatic and shoreline resources, as well as to piping plovers. It also accounted for losses to public coastal access, recreational shellfishing, and boating. The Trustees continue to work with the responsible party to compensate the public for injuries to loons, sea ducks and other coastal birds.

In September 2014, the Trustees allocated $4.25 million for implementing 19 aquatic and shoreline resource and lost public use restoration projects in MA and RI.

Recreational Shellfishing and Shellfish Restoration

The following projects have or will be completed:

  • 1-acre oyster restoration in Little Bay, Fairhaven, completed
  • Bay scallop restoration in Squeteague Harbor, Bourne, implemented and on-going
  • Collection and relay of 500,000+ adult quahogs from waters closed due to bacterial contamination for transplant into coastal waters in eight Buzzards Bay towns, with depuration, population recruitment, and future managed recreational shellfishing
  • 1-acre oyster project in Onset Bay, Wareham, implementation in 2017
  • 1-acre oyster project in Cohasset Narrows, Bourne, implementation in 2018

Coastal Access and Boating Restoration

The following projects have been or will be completed:

  • Protection of ~450 acres of land in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett for public access
  • Trail creation at Allens Pond Sanctuary in Dartmouth and Nasketucket Bay Reservation in Mattapoisett
  • Foot-access trail, picnic area, and other public use amenities on Palmers Island in New Bedford Harbor
  • Reconstruction of the Onset boat ramp in Wareham

Bird Restoration

In August 2019, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management released a draft plan to restore common loons and other birds that were killed and injured by the 2003 Bouchard Barge 120 Buzzards Bay oil spill that injured natural resources in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The plan is available for public review and comment through October 31, 2019. The agencies will hold an information meeting and webinar on September 12 at 1 p.m. Learn more about the plan and public meeting, and how to provide public comment in our article posted August 29.

Between 2013 and 2016, 28 projects were funded to protect nesting habitat for and to increase of populations of piping plover at multiple beaches in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 

Last updated August 29, 2019