Cape shellfish facilities lose thousands in theft of oysters

Two Cape Cod shellfish facilities have been robbed of thousands of dollars’ worth of oysters this summer, including a heist last week.

On Monday the Barnstable propagation site on Marstons Mills River found that it had been robbed of around 3,000 oysters sometime the previous week. The site grows many shellfish, but oysters are one of their most popular commodities, said Barnstable natural resources supervisor Douglas Kalweit.

The site lost about $3,000 in the theft, Kalweit said.

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The thief either trekked through woods or drove a boat through polluted water to gain access to the oysters, Kalweit said.

There are no suspects, but the site has changed shifts of their employees and added surveillance cameras, Kalweit said.

“There’s a whole bunch of people with their eyes and ears out,” he said.

The oysters were supposed to continue growing before they would be harvested in November.

Earlier this summer, Dennis had a similar theft on its Crowes Pasture grants. Thirty-one farmers grow oysters at that location, and over 20,000 have gone missing, said Dennis shellfish constable Chris Southwood.

In the Dennis theft, 10,000 full-grown oysters and the trays they grow in were taken from one farmer’s grant, or plot, between July 14 and 15, setting him back around $1,600. Then, between July 18 and 19, another 10,000 oysters went missing, but this time the thief did not take the trays, Southwood said.

Due to the similar nature of the crimes in Dennis, Southwood believes the same person may have stolen those oysters.

“Until they get caught they’re probably just going to continue to do it,” he said.

In order to prevent future thefts, the Dennis Department of Natural Resources will be putting a gate up on the road leading into the grants. The gate will stay closed between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Surveillance cameras will also monitor the site, Southwood said.

Crowes Pasture grants had seen thefts in the past but never to this extreme, Southwood said.