West Tisbury oysters were on the market during the holiday season, but they are unavailable now. Tom Osmers, town shellfish constable, said there were three commercial oyster fishermen out on the pond. The season opened on Monday, Dec. 15 and was closed on Wednesday, Dec. 31. The fishermen were limited to one bushel a day, a sparse amount compared to years ago when the fishery was healthy and more productive.
“We are still in recovery,” said Mr. Osmers, describing the state of the oysters in the great pond. Oysters are coming back to the pond, after having suffered a collapse.
Oysters are a fragile fishery. In 2003 the pond did not open to commercial oyster fishing because of a die-off of oysters caused by a southern shellfish disease called dermo. Through efforts by the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group and the town shellfish department, the town is bringing back the fishery through propagation.
In more recent years, the oysters have shown increased resistance to the disease.
There will be no oyster fishery in Edgartown this winter. Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said: “The adults are few and far between.”
Last summer, the Edgartown shellfish department, with the help of the shellfish group, took big steps to propagate juvenile oysters for the Edgartown Great Pond. Mr. Bagnall said while there won’t be an oyster fishery this year, the work being done by people like William (Boo) Bassett points towards a better fishery in the future. Usually it takes oysters three years to get to a harvestable adult size.
Edgartown bay scalloping continues even in the cold of winter. On Monday, the Edgartown selectmen closed Cape Pogue Pond to bay scalloping to protect next year’s harvest. Their action follows the advice of the town shellfish advisory committee and the shellfish constable. Mr. Bagnall said this has not been a good bay scallop season, though there is hope. “I think we are doing about half of last year. If there is a silver lining it is that there is a lot of seed in the Poucha Pond and Cape Pogue Pond system. I feel badly for the couple of guys that wanted to keep going,” Mr. Bagnall said.
Fortunately, there are still bay scallops outside of the Edgartown harbor. Mr. Bagnall said the fishermen have found them in the waters off the Edgartown Lighthouse and in the channel. “Before Christmas we had seven or eight boats going out. Typically we had two or three guys working off the Lighthouse Beach,” Mr. Bagnall said.