Impact & Management: Shellfishing
Oysters, clams, scallops, crabs, blue mussels, conchs, horseshoe crabs, and fish were once plentiful in Fairfield waters. Concern about overfishing began in 1721, when the town started trying to outlaw the taking of oysters. As time went on, the town attempted to preserve oysters by limiting days on which they could be taken, requiring special permission, and assigning specific oyster beds to individuals with exclusive rights.
No persons what-so-ever shall directly or indirectly take, catch or break from their beds any Oysters or Clams...anytime within two years...except upon application of a woman in the state of pregnancy...shall have a longing desire for Oysters or round Clams - in such case the Selectmen may in writing permit such quantity as they deem sufficient. (Fairfield Town Meeting, 1764)
Today, oyster farming has made a partial comeback, with active beds in Bridgeport, Norwalk, and New Haven. Oysters are more adaptable than some other shellfish, as they can thrive in warmer water, and since they filter a large amount of water for food, they help clean excess plankton out of Long Island Sound.