|THE CONSERVATION OF OUR OYSTER SUPPLY.|
OYSTER culture, properly so called, the production of spat by aid of artificial methods, has never been resorted to in this country," And "as the scarcity of seed is one of the greatest difficulties now encountered by the oyster planter, this subject offers an interesting field for investigation."
These statements occur in the Report of the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries for the year ending June 30, 1889; and as the propagation of spat by artificial means has not been resorted to since that time, it will be interesting to examine the general conditions of our oyster supply, and, from ascertained results in foreign waters, consider whether or not such methods would tend toward restocking our depleted oyster beds, or economically increasing the oyster supply.
In the consideration of this subject it will be well, first, to give a brief, general account of the conditions of the existing, working, and outworked oyster beds; and, having ascertained these conditions, as nearly as possible, and made some necessary comparisons, we can more easily consider the advisability of raising spat by artificial methods. The natural oyster of America can not continue to be produced in such abundance as we have been accustomed to find it. The beds of South Carolina have practically given out; the famous oyster beds of Maryland and Virginia—in the Chesapeake Bay region, which Captain Collins calls "the most important oyster region of the world"—are being so depleted of oysters that the "gravest apprehension" is caused as to their future; and only in Connecticut has there been a marked increase, both in the acreage of oyster beds and oyster production,