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Buzzards Bay is a bay of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the U.S. state of Massachusetts. It is approximately 28 miles (45 kilometers) long by 8 miles (twelve kilometers) wide. It is a popular destination for fishing, boating, and tourism. Since 1914, Buzzards Bay has been connected to Cape Cod Bay by the Cape Cod Canal. In 1987, Buzzards Bay was designated an Estuary of National Significance.
It is surrounded by the Elizabeth Islands on the south, by Cape Cod on the east, and the southern coasts of Bristol and Plymouth counties in Massachusetts to the northwest. To the southwest, the bay is connected to Rhode Island Sound. The city of New Bedford, Massachusetts is a historically-significant port on Buzzards Bay; it was the world's most successful whaling port during the early- and mid-nineteenth century.
Buzzards Bay was created during the latter portion of the Pleistocene epoch through the interplay of glacial and oceanic processes. Beginning fifty thousand to seventy thousand years ago, the edges of the continental ice sheet covering much of North America began to fluctuate, leaving moraines to mark the former extent of the receded ice. One such moraine forms Cape Cod, which is most of the eastern shoreline of Buzzards Bay.
The bay's current configuration, a well-mixed central bay and fringing shallow drowned-river valleys, with their shallow depth, tidal action, and surface waves, promotes mixing of the estuarine waters to create a productive aquatic ecosystem. Like many estuaries, however, increasing development and land-use changes by the surrounding communities are accompanied by nutrient runoff leading to eutrophication (an increase in nutrient levels leading to oxygen depletion) in the smaller embayments. Decreases in eelgrass, scallops, and herring have also been noted, but direct cause-and-effect relationships are not clear. Coordinated management efforts in Buzzards Bay have helped to decrease shellfish closures, conserve habitat for sea birds, and preserve open space.