Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/52

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2,000,000 oysters. This, however, was the period of the Napoleonic wars, and the fishery was much disturbed by the English cruisers. During this time the beds became so thickly stocked that the oysters were in some places a yard thick. After the close of the war the fishery improved, and the oysters were removed in larger and increasing numbers until 1843.

From 1823 to 1848 it is supposed that the dredgers were living upon the animals accumulated during the period of enforced rest, from 1800 to 1816. In 1817 the number of oysters produced was 5,600,000, and until 1843 there was a constant increase, the number taken in that year being 70,000,000. In 1848 it was 60,000,000, and thenceforward there was a constant decrease. From 1850 to 1856 the decrease was from 50,000,000 to 18,000,000, and was supposed to be the effect of over-dredging. From 1859 to 1868 the decrease was from 16,000,000 to 1,079,000, the oysters having almost entirely disappeared from the beds, though on account of the suffering condition of the inhabitants of the shores it was impossible to prevent it or restrict the fishery. In 1870 there was a complete wreck of the bottom, which could only be remedied by a total prohibition of the fisheries for several years.

From the beds of the districts of Rochefort, Marennes, and Isle d'Oléron, on the west coast of France, there were taken, in 1853-'54, 10,000,000 oysters; in 1854-'55, 15,000,000. On account of exhaustive fishing, in 1863-'64 only 400,000 could be obtained.

According to Mr. Webber, Mayor of Falmouth, England, about seven hundred men, working three hundred boats, were employed in a profitable oyster-fishery in the neighborhood of Falmouth until 1866, when the old laws enforcing a close-time were repealed, under an impression that, owing to the great productive powers of the oyster, it would be impossible to remove a sufficient number to prevent the restocking of the beds. Since 1866 the beds have become so impoverished, from the excessive and continual fishery, that in 1876 only forty men and less than forty boats could find employment, and, small as that number is, they could not take more than sixty or one hundred oysters a day, while formerly, in the same time, one boat could take from ten to twelve thousand.

According to the statement of Mr. Messum, an oyster-dealer and secretary of an oyster company in Emsworth, England, there were in the harbor of Emsworth, between the years 1840 and 1850, so many oysters that one man in five hours could take from twenty-four to thirty-two thousand. In consequence of over-fishery in 1858, scarcely ten vessels could find loads, and in 1868 a dredger, in five-hours, could not find more than twenty oysters!

The oyster-fisheries of Jersey, in the English Channel, afforded employment to four hundred vessels. In six or seven years the dredging became so extensive and the beds so exhausted that only three or