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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/16

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

as do they in Maryland and Virginia, her oyster fisheries would have been a practical failure, as they threaten to be in the Chesapeake, unless there is speedy and judicious State legislation.

As a matter of fact, the present condition of affairs in the Chesapeake points ominously to a not far distant appeal from the fishermen of that region to the General Government to assist them in rehabilitating their oyster grounds. Such a contingency is at all times best avoided; but in this case I have shown, by comparison, that all that is needed in the Chesapeake region, to insure a renewed prosperity of the oyster fishery, is judicious State legislation in the direction of conveying proprietary rights to individuals or companies for the purpose of planting and cultivating the oyster. This plan has already been attempted in the Chesapeake, but has so far been successfully resisted by the fishermen. The prosperity of the Connecticut fisheries is entirely owing to the State enactments conferring proprietary rights; and there can not be a doubt but that similar legislation in Maryland and Virginia would bring about a return of prosperity to the Chesapeake oyster fisheries.

The usual method employed in Connecticut for the collection of spat is to first clean the ground by dredging and then cover it with shells, to which the spat will adhere, nearly 7,500,000 bushels of shells being used for this purpose during the past five years. "It is estimated that twenty-five or thirty adult oysters produce enough eggs each season to equal the annual product of Connecticut waters." So that, were it not for the starfish and other enemies which infest this coast, the supplies of food oysters would out-rival in quantity the hundreds of thousands of acres covered by the now useless "raccoons" of South Carolina. No judicious expense is spared to make the oyster beds of Connecticut prolific: if they are too muddy, as are those of South Carolina, they are easily "made," by placing one hundred to two hundred tons of gravel over each acre, and the report of the commissioner states that "this system has produced excellent results."

Of course, there are other oyster grounds on the Atlantic coast besides those which I have mentioned—notably the famous Shrewsbury River beds; but they are not so extensive, nor do they so particularly affect the question, by comparison, of the advisability of adopting artificial propagation. And now, having briefly explained the conditions of our oyster grounds, we are brought face to face with the statement which prefaces this article, namely: "As the scarcity of seed is one of the greatest difficulties now encountered by the oyster planter," would the propagation of spat by artificial means profitably assist in rehabilitating our depleted grounds?

As I have already mentioned, Mr. Blackford not only thinks