Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/11

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and in the methods, number of persons, and capital employed for the building up of the industry.

In the present conditions an oyster famine is not a far-away nor impossible contingency. We have been large consumers of oysters, and we did not sow where we had reaped. Luckily, this condition of affairs attracted the serious attention of the United States Fish and Fisheries Commission; exhaustive investigations were made, and finally, in the autumn of 1891, Mr. Bashford Dean proceeded to France, under instructions from the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, and there, at the great French homes of oyster culture—around Arcachon and Auray—he examined the French methods of artificial culture, his observations being chiefly made so as to be as pertinent as possible to the conditions of American waters. I can not, however, agree with some of the statements which Mr. Dean makes in the introduction to his report. He says that, considering the condition and methods of oyster culture in France, it is apparent that in this country "all costly methods of cultivation could have proved of little practical value." Prof. W. K. Brooks, Mr. E. C. Blackford, and other authorities are positive in their statements to the contrary. For instance, in his report to the Legislature of New York State, in 1887, Mr. Blackford says: "The rapid deterioration of the natural growth of oyster beds. . . has made it absolutely necessary that the artificial propagation of the oyster should be encouraged to prevent its entire extermination." But, as it will be necessary to enter into this subject more fully later, I shall now briefly examine the general conditions of the industry as it exists to-day, making short historical and comparative allusions as I proceed.

Taking the oyster beds in the order in which I have placed them, we shall first examine those of South Carolina. "The entire coast margin" of this State is well provided with natural beds; but, says Mr. Dean, "they are strangely unlike the natural beds occurring further northward." In this region the oyster is found on the margin of the shore in positive reefs, part of which are at low tide exposed—so that the oysters live almost "as much in the air as in the water." These ledges are formed of curious clusters—those oysters which are on the top being called "raccoons," because of their peculiar shape. These oysters can barely be said to live, and are in their present condition utterly unfit for the table.

Prof. Ryder says that the cause of this peculiar clustering is that, because of the muddy and unhealthy condition of the bottom in the deeper water, the oysters of South Carolina cling to the shore line and there build upon one another, generation after generation, until sometimes ledges are formed over ten feet in