Scoundrel. Rapscallion. Ne’er-do-well. Good-for-nothing. Scallywag.
These are some apt words we came up with to describe the person or persons responsible for poaching oysters from Mill Creek earlier this month.
No one is sure exactly when the theft happened. The fishery is checked regularly. But most agree that it probably happened in the dead of night when no one would be around to see.
The young oysters were not yet large enough to be legally taken by fishermen. They were in floating cages to protect them from natural predators like the crabs that are so plentiful in the creek.
While the cages offered protection from the 10-legged crabs, they did not thwart the two-legged bandits, who made off with more than 4,000 juvenile oysters.
Officials said the oysters that were stolen are probably too small to eat. They may have been taken for use in another oyster fishery. If someone were to eat the oysters, they could possibly get sick, since pollutants in the creek spike during the warmer months.
Sandwich’s oyster fishery is quite young. It was started only about a half-dozen years ago when tiny oyster “seeds” were brought in and placed in cages to grow.
Things were just starting to get interesting. Last winter, for the very first time, the town allowed recreational shellfishermen to take oysters. It was just for one day. A crowd turned out. It was quite a scene.
That one-day event was meant as a taste of what was yet to come.
But this month’s thievery wiped out years’ worth of work and could possibly cause the cancellation of this year’s oyster harvest.
“I am deeply disappointed that an individual—or individuals—could be so selfish. They’re just spoiling it for everyone else,” said Natural Resources Director David DeConto.
That’s an understatement. What happened in Mill Creek is reprehensible.
Mr. DeConto said his department is now considering putting up lights to illuminate the creek where the oysters live and possibly installing security cameras.
We hate the idea of lighting up the creek like a movie set but we hate even more the thought of losing shellfish to greedy, opportunistic poachers.