By Christine Legere
A town-operated oyster farm in Barnstable's Marstons Mills River has become the newest area to be hit by poachers.
Staff members from the Barnstable Natural Resources Department discovered the theft of about 3,000 oysters when they went to the site Monday.
"We've never had a problem like this before in my recollection," said natural resources Supervisor Douglas Kalweit, who said the shellfish are kept in plastic mesh cases in the river while they grow.
"Our staff went out to work on the project and found a lot of empty net bags floating around, and there were a lot of mature or just under mature oysters missing."
The river, located in the area of Prince Cove, is one of a handful of propagation sites where the town grows oysters. Once they are mature, the oysters are transplanted to other waterways for recreational harvest, a popular pastime in town that is done by permit.
The Marstons Mills River oysters would have gone to West Bay for harvest in the fall, Kalweit said.
"The saddest part is all the effort it took to get the oysters to the size they are," he said.
According to Kalweit, the town has stepped up its vigilance since the discovery Monday.
"We have taken measures to protect the town's investment," he said. "They're being watched much more closely."
Meanwhile, in Dennis, the repeated oyster thefts that plagued Crowes Pasture grants over the last several weeks appear to have stopped, at least for the moment. More than $40,000 in oysters and equipment have been stolen from those grants. More....