Size matters, when it comes to oysters, and sometimes it seems that smaller can be better.
House lawmakers Monday approved legislation that reduces the legal size for harvesting oysters from Connecticut waters, down from a minimum of 3 inches in diameter to 2.75 inches. The measure now goes to the Senate for action.
The bill cleared the House on a 139-8 vote despite complaints from a few legislators that allowing fishermen to take and sell smaller oysters simply didn’t make sense.
“Scientifically, this is a bad idea,” said Rep. Edward Moukawsher, D-Groton. He argued that allowing the harvesting of smaller oysters didn’t give them enough time to mature and reproduce.
Moukawsher claimed no other state on the eastern seaboard allows oysters smaller than 3 inches across to be harvested for commercial sale.
But a study by legislative researchers released earlier this year indicates that several states, including Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey do allow oysters smaller than 3 inches in diameter to be harvested.
Rep. Craig A. Miner, R-Litchfield, said there are legitimate reasons to allow the harvesting of smaller oysters, including the fact that some potential markets for Connecticut shellfish only want smaller oysters. He added that, in some cases, smaller oysters may be less costly to transport to market.
“This is not a perfect bill,” Miner admitted. “This shouldn’t be the last time we talk about oysters.”
Another provision would allow the state to deny the renewal of a fisherman’s state shellfish bed if he or she is in default on the rent of any state-leased bed.
Moukawsher insisted that bill was far too “heavy handed” in dealing with shellfish lease-holders who may have run into financial problems paying the state rent.
State Rep. Tom Vicino, D-Clinton, said some of his shellfishing constituents approve of the state getting tough with lease-holders. And Backer said there are provisions in the legislation to “give people who are in trouble a chance to get out of trouble.”