The Shellfish Industry
Around 1850, Long Island Sound was an important breeding ground for shellfish, including clams, oysters, mussels and even lobsters. Quite a few men were engaged in the industry, and owned their own packet boats. Travelers could see lobster pots on the Indian Harbor side of Steamboat Road. A State Fish and Game Commission made sure shellfish beds were cultivated.
Shellfishing was an important industry from about 1850 to 1929. Today there are much less shellfish and lobsters in our local waters. Lobsters are less plentiful except around Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Buzzard Bay at the eastern end of Long Island. Some blame oyster dredges for tearing vegetation away from shellfish. A case can be made for increased pollution from fertilizer.
Threat To The Sound
For years Long Island Sound has had a “dead zone” which is ever-widening. The result has been fewer and smaller-sized shellfish. The result has been the loss of fishermen to harvest this seafood. They’re selling off their boats and equipment, and are pursuing more lucrative jobs. Since shellfish help filter the water, the decrease in numbers means the water is not getting cleaned. Since the water is becoming more acidic due to an increase of carbon dioxide in the water, this effects shell growth, and makes the population much more fragile. Shellfishing is definitely on the wane.
Some fishermen have resorted to suing airports, companies and municipal governments for the pollution. A series of oil spills has hurt shellfishing, and airport fuel spills have adversely effected water quality. Plastics have killed many fish and reduced food for the food chain. Fishermen claim their livelihoods are being ruined. Some states are trying to replenish shellfish beds, while some are building water filter plants to clean the mussells, clams and other shellfish. Many municipalities are now monitoring water quality. Strong environmental laws are necessary to protect our water habitats
Just as it has taken years to create this problem, it will take many years to correct it. In the meantime, there will be economic repercussions that will be felt for years. Everyone must do their part to turn this situation around.
Hubbard, FA; Greenwich History: The Judges Corner; Round Hill Productions, Col 49, Pg 74; Greenwich CT, 2001.