Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/15

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THE CONSERVATION OF OUR OYSTER SUPPLV. 7

is as constantly replenished by the bountiful hand of Nature." I have already shown how this same greed and ignorance of the Chesapeake oystermen have jeopardized not only their oyster supply but also their means of livelihood.

As a matter of fact it is in this erroneous assumption that lie the truth and reason for the apparent diminution of not only the oyster supply, but also the supplies of other fish food in our waters. Nature distinctly claims her rights when she demands that we must sow where we have reaped ; and in this lies the true axis for the more satisfactory revolution of our fish and other food products.

I shall now pass to the third oyster ground which I have mentioned, and shall more pleasurably outliiie the prosperous conditions existing in Connecticut. Prior to 1784 no restrictions were placed upon the oyster fishery of this State ; it was perfectly free, and as a consequence the beds soon became depleted. In that year the Legislature passed an enactment empowering every, town of the State " to make rules and ordinances for regulating the fisheries of clams and oysters within their respective limits."' This, however, did not materially aid in rehabilitating the beds; but the law continued in operation for seventy-one years 1855 when, the condition of the oyster grounds was so poor, a law was passed enabling private individuals to obtain two acres of ground for the cultivation of oysters. This was the first step in the right direction. The private owners discovered that, instead of plant- ing small oysters, they could collect spat artificially on shells and other objects ; this discovery " led to an extension of deep-water planting," and it was undeniably the source of the present pros- perity of the Connecticut oyster fisheries.

Captain Collins says that at first the planting was confined to shallow waters; but, in 1865, many beds were planted "in as much as twenty feet of water." And so the development in- creased until 1874, when steam was introduced for dredging. In 1881 additional legislation became necessary, in order to enable the owners of private grounds to enlarge their territories, as they complained that the cultivation of oysters in deep waters re- quired much additional and costly apparatus. And since that time the number of acres of oyster grounds owned by individuals according to the Connecticut State Shellfish Commission has increased from 33,987 acres in 1881 to 70,132 in 1889, of which 15,400 were planted. Apart from this calculation there are 19,911 acres of public oyster grounds which, however, can not be dredged by steam.

In 1889 the value of oysters from natural beds amounted to only $31,305, whereas the yield of the cultivated beds was sold for $1,040,372. So that, if Connecticut relied upon her natural beds,

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