MUCH has been said and more has been written about oysters and their culture. Astonished by large figures many writers wished to astonish their readers in a similar way, and to induce the coast population of all civilised countries to undertake the culture of enormous masses of this most costly of all molluscs. Thus a belief has been widely spread that wherever there was a coast and sea-water, oyster-beds could be established and quantities of oysters could annually be obtained without much trouble. The little book we have under notice is therefore well timed. It reduces to their proper and reasonable measure all ideas on this subject in speculative heads, and, as the author owns himself, it will for that reason be hardly welcome to these would-be oyster cultivators. But it will be all the more so to biologists, proprietors of oyster-beds, and the educated public generally, since it contains valuable details of the biology, the peculiarities, and the life-conditions of oysters. It will, we have no doubt, also find a favourable reception amongst those government departments of the various states of Europe and America, whose duty it is to superintend the oyster-fisheries and the natural oyster-beds, since it will offer them a reliable basis for their judgment in adopting or rejecting measures relating thereto. Prof. Moebius gives a very able account of the artificial oyster culture in France, and of the attempts made in this country to introduce the French system of artificial culture, which unfortunately all ended in failure. He then asks the question whether artificial culture after the French method would be possible on the German coasts of the German Ocean, and in a well-written chapter arrives at the conclusion that this question must be answered in the negative. An important query is whether natural oyster-beds can be artificially enlarged, and whether new oyster-beds can be established. Prof. Moebius thoroughly ventilates this question, and an attentive perusal of the little work will not leave anybody in doubt as to whether any intended experiments will or will not be crowned with success. The author quotes several examples of natural beds which were ruined by over-fishing; he also gives an account of the repeated experiments made in the Baltic with a view of establishing natural oyster-beds, all of which failed, the last with 50,000 oysters deposited in 1843 near the Island of Rügen, of which only two years afterwards not a single one remained alive. One of the most interesting chapters in the book is the one treating of the increase in the number of oyster-eaters, the rise in the price and the decrease in the quantity of oysters; it contains numerous statistical data showing how, in 1740, fresh oysters were sold at Hamburg at 3d. per hundred! Even as late as 1830 they were sold at 1s. per tub (about 1,600) at Falmouth; but Prof. Mœbius doubts whether in this age of railways and steamboats we shall ever return to such a state of things. A chapter on the chemical constituents and the taste of oysters, and another on the object and results of a rational culture of oysters, form the conclusion to this clever little work.
Die Auster und die Austernwirthschaft.
Von Karl Moebius. (Berlin: Wiegandt, Hempel, and Parey, 1877.)
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