A Brief History of Oystering in Narragansett Bay
Roger Williams notes that the Narragansett Indians were shellfishermen in his treatise on their language.
Oysters first harvested exclusively as a raw material for lime production.
Colonial Assembly outlaws the practice as an unacceptable waste of oyster meat.
Colonial Assembly passes first law to prevent oyster overfishing.
Law mandating a seasonal closure of the oyster beds is enacted; first lease granted.
New state constitution sets the people’s right to “enjoy and freely exercise all the rights of fishery, and the privileges of the shore.”
Oyster Act enhances oyster production and establishes leasing protocols.
General Assembly passes laws to encourage shellfish aquaculture, including allowing private lessees to harvest oysters from public beds for seed stock.
Industrial pollution causes population to decrease as production increases. First marine laboratory established in Jerusalem to determine why.
Two lease holders sue Providence Gas Company for polluting beds with coal tar discharges.
Peak production of oysters with 1,394,983 bushels landed.
Effects of pollution evident.
Great Hurricane destroys oyster infrastructure, accelerating a decline begun in the Great Depression. Many oyster companies never reopen.
Warren Oyster Company closes, the last of two oyster companies.
Luther Blount tries to revive family oyster business with two oyster ponds off Prudence Island.
Moonstone Oysters applies for lease in Point Judith Pond. Approved in 1990 after 14 hearings. Cumbersome process proves to be an impediment to revival.
Legislation streamlines permitting process. Establishes CRMC as the coordinating agency.
Aquaculture grows to $744,319 industry. Farms increase from six in 1995 to 24.
Fifty-two oyster farms. Now a $4.4 million industry.
—Adapted from A Brief History of Oyster Aquaculture in Rhode Island Michael A. Rice, University of Rhode Island.