Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/13

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THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE OYSTER.

in any part more than six feet deep. Its bed is a black volcanic slime, such as one might suppose would be death to mollusks generally. From time beyond memory this has been an oyster park or plantation; a place for raising the young oysters, that is, the oyster-seed—namely, the small oysters, which, when put in proper places, will become oysters of an eatable size. For these young to settle on, heaps of stone are placed in the lake with a circle of piles round each heap (Fig. 3). In other parts of the lake the piles are driven in rows and connected by ropes, from which hang fagots, on which also the young can fix themselves (Fig. 4). These fagots, at the proper time, are easily pulled up, and the young, or "seed," picked off by hand to be planted elsewhere.

Formerly France possessed a great abundance of native oysters. But this industry was without regulation, and the French natives, like our Northern natives, came near being exterminated. A few years ago Prof. Coste, of the French Academy, called attention to the fact that the French oyster was becoming extinct. He took up the study of this mollusk in earnest, and learned many important facts concerning its nature. He even went to the Neapolitan oyster-park, and observed how the fishermen there saved the young ones. He then appealed to the government, which put means in his way for experimenting, and, in a short time, he had a successful oyster-plantation under way. It is in France as elsewhere, "seeing is believing," and "there is nothing that succeeds like success." Under the wise direction of this learned naturalist the new industry, oyster-planting, became a furor in France. "In two years 1,200 capitalists, associated with a similar number of fishermen, occupied a surface of 988 acres." By which is meant the area of shore-line exposed at low tide. And what labor! so thorough and scientific. The isle of Ré, with its unsuitable, muddy shores, had all that sea-bottom altered. In two years twelve miles of sea-coast thus changed was planted, with 1,200 parks in operation, and thousands more projected. Now, oyster-culture is conducted in France on better principles than anywhere else. And all of this great additional wealth to the nation comes out of the applied science of a man "that studied shells and worms," as is often said in derision. In France scrupulous provision is made for husbanding the fry. In America no effort is made in this direction, and the time is not far off when the nation will wake up to a serious calamity in this respect.

The American practice is simply this: In the spring of the year large numbers of sloops and schooners go south to procure the young oysters called "seed." This sets considerable money afloat southward, as they have to take with them the ready cash. In the days of "wild-cat" banking, the Southrons would take nothing but specie, and that must be paid just so soon as the oysters were put into the boat. The "seed" is obtained chiefly in the Rappahannock, the Nan-