Alan Sterling’s Vanishing Oysters

oystersAlan Sterling first noticed his oysters disappearing in 2004.  The oysterman – a former Staples student working here since 1964 — leases 150 acres of fertile grounds, between Compo Beach and Cockenoe Island, from the state.

He had a particularly concentrated bottom set that year.  Suddenly nothing was left.  Millions of oysters were gone, just like that.

“I may have mentioned it to the Shellfish Commission.  Or maybe I just let it go,” Alan recalls.  “The problem is, you need absolute proof – video or still shots – and they have to be triangulated.  I can’t be in three places at once.  I didn’t always have a boat to keep an eye on it.”

Alan says that in the past three years he has lost $3 million worth of oysters.  And that’s a conservative estimate.

The poachers are watching Alan.  By the time he leaves shore, they leave his grounds.  Though he knows who they are, catching them in the act is nearly impossible.

“When they see me coming they move off the reef, back to Norwalk,” he says.  “I don’t have a boat fast enough to catch them.  When they want something, they just take it.”

Finally, he got the Department of Environmental Protection involved.  It hasn’t done much good.

Alan is now working with an attorney, hoping for a settlement or reparations.  Meanwhile, his oysters continue to vanish.

3 responses to “Alan Sterling’s Vanishing Oysters

  1. I think there must be others with cameras. Alan Funt where are you?

  2. Really interesting. It’s unbelievable that this sort of ‘burglary’ is happening right off of Westport’s shoreline.

    More: The Coast Guard is also aware that in the recent past – and, not on this man’s boats – but others out of Norwalk but ‘farming’ off of Westport were using non-US citizens to work the boats and paying them below living wages.

    Again, amazing that this is happening right off of Westport; amazing because this town is so considerate, sensitive and diligent in regard to these issues.

  3. Deborah Blair

    How sad. But this is going on all over in a variety of ways. What is most unfortunate is that many who brush shoulders with us at yoga, tai chi, great lectures, on the beach walking – are actually engaged in these activities that hurt others. They justify their behavior as things that they are entitled to and/or it seems faceless so who is it really harming?

    Thank you Dan for putting a real face and heart to one of those who is being harmed by secret and open selfishness. We don’t need a “victim” mentality – but we do need to make a real space to hear what has harmed individuals and groups so that we can support their healing and healing for our world.

    Thank you for bringing this forward.