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The companies owning the oyster beds have to employ these boats to keep off poachers.
By WINIFRED FALES Author of "Japanese Shadow Painting." "A Royal Romance," Etc. Y those who know the most pop- points of our Atlantic coast. So plentiRu
ular of bivalves only as a tempt- ful were they, that the possibility of the ing item on the bill of fare, the supply becoming exhausted was over
phrase "oyster planting” may be looked; and the indiscriminate oyster regarded as belonging to the same cat- fishing which was the rule for generaegory as the well-worn anecdote of the tions, resulted in the extermination of unsophisticated bride who telephoned her the prized mollusk in many sections. So poulterer for “two yards of canvasback complete was the destruction that but for ducks." The oysterman, however, dis- the mammoth shell mounds that bear cerns no humor in the expressions “oys- mute witness to the gastronomic achieveter planting," "oyster farming," and ments of the copper-skinned aborigines, others of like character, which are to him and the testimony of old letters and docthe A B C of his daily life. More farmer uments that shed light upon the practice than fisherman is he, for, though swept by of former days, it might easily be inthe restless tide, his fertile acres are as ferred that the oyster had never existed accurately surveyed, and his living crops on many portions of our seaboard. as regularly sown and harvested, as are At length both the importance of the those of his brother husbandman ashore. industry and the danger which menaced What wonder, then, that he should bor- it were recognized, and the States dirow the language of the latter to express rectly interested passed laws for its regvarious operations connected with his ulation and development. Under the own calling?
present system, the oyster beds are leased
by the acre to corporations and individNeed of Legislative Protection
uals, the boundaries of the various holdIn early Colonial days, oysters were ings being designated by stakes whose to be found in abundance at nearly all tops are visible at low tide.
UNLOADING OYSTERS FROM DREDGE BOAT INTO Scow. The loaded scow is towed into a fresh-water creek, where the oysters are thrown overboard again at high tide. As a result of the "drink”-for which fondness for the oyster. The massive - jawed drumfish feels well repaid for the trouble of crushing the strong armor of his prey, when his efforts are rewarded by a feast on the juicy pulp within. The starfish uses methods less violent but equally effectual, closing every crack and crevice with its sinuous arms, and clinging fast until the victim is compelled to open its shell to breathe. The ensuing battle is si
a period of about six hours is allowed the salt water is largely removed, and the oysters are plumper and more easily kept fresh.
lent but deadly, the DREDGE FULL OF OYSTERS HAULED IN OVER SIDE OF Boat.
sequel being an empty
casket—and a full starOyster Pirates, Human and Submarine fish! Worst of all is the havoc
The new legislation has been attended wrought by the oysters themselves with highly satisfactory results, so far -groups of young ones clustering upon as the public, which consumes more than the shells of their elders and smothering 28,000,000 bushels of oysters per annum, the latter, just like so many submarine is concerned; but has unexpectedly led Othellos. to the creation of a new type of criminal These facts with respect to the alarm—the oyster pirate. These gentry belong ing mortality that prevails among the to the numerous class who fain would Ostreide explain why it is that the oyster reap where they have not sown; and, beds are invariably found to be littered sailing by night, they take unlicensed toll with empty shells, and also why Mamma from the legitimate farmers. So great a oyster insures her posterity by laying nuisance has this poaching become that more than a million eggs. the beds are constantly. patrolled by swift policeboats, and many a naval battle in miniature is fought with the midnight marauders by the officers of the law.
The enemies of the oyster, however, are not restricted to the human species. But for nature's lavish provision for its propagation, the helpless mollusk would long ago have shared the fate of the ichthyosaurus and the dodo. Far from enjoying an undisputed monopoly, man is obliged to compete against numberless
SORTING The Whole Oysters. rivals who share his
In dredging for oysters, the dredge breaks many, so that the load has to be
sorted. The empty shells are thrown back again.
AFTER THE DRINK.
then taken to the oyster house.
at other seasons, and, like all sea-foods, silt, and to fasten upon some place where do not keep so well as in cold weather, their growth will be unimpeded. Withbut are otherwise a perfectly healthful out this instinct, many of them would go diet.
to the mud, and there in a brief time be
smothered. A sunken barge, a subFinding a Home
merged ledge, a boulder, a broken pile, When the spawn has been deposited, an expanse of shingle, gravel, or hardit is carried hither and thither by the packed sand—any and all of these are tides and currents, until the young are in high favor. But best of all is a pophatched. From the eggs, come fry so ulous oyster bed, where the habitations small as to be almost microscopic. They of the early settlers form a convenient seem to be higher in the scale of being anchorage for the newcomers. The latthan when in their adult state, and swim ter attach themselves in bunches and nervously about, gathering the food clusters to the shells of their seniors, which they find in the waters around many of whom are gradually crushed out
ered. The beds which are to receive the seed lie from ten to sixty feet beneath the surface and are prepared by spreading with a layer of empty shells. Here the seed is sown by the simple method of dropping it over the side of the planter's boat, which steams back and forth until the entire area has been coyered. The expedient of substituting a foundation of empty shells for one of living mollusks is a master stroke of economy on the part of the farmer. The fry accept the change of environment philosophically, and, quickly settling down upon the artificial bed, apply themselves
of existence. Beyond this, the bad judgment displayed by the oysterlings in grouping themselves thus closely, leads to fatal crowding as they increase in size; and large numbers become so tightly wedged together that they are powerless to open their shells and are eventually suffocated. In these crowded groups, the law of the survival of the fittest works with marked energy. In what may be called an oyster ball, one eighth of the individuals will be of normal size, one fourth to three eighths will be dead shells, and the remainder will be permanently dwarfed.
Planting In planting oysters, the first operation is the collection of seed. Progressive individuals impound water rights, and place adult oysters therein at the spawning season. The barrier prevents the scattering of the spawn by ocean currents, and protects it against the attacks of its hereditary foes. Bundles of fagots or young trees are driven into the mud or silt that floors the enclosure, and to these the spat attach themselves in due course of time. When they have attained a size ranging from a half-inch to an inch and a-half in diameter, the branches are pulled up and the living harvest gath