Private Collection of Norman Bloom, Copps Island Oysters, Norwalk, CT
Typically only a few inches long today, oysters breed in beds, often in shallow waters where they can be gathered by hand or with small rakes. Early settlers cultivated oysters that were as large as dinner plates. In the 18th century, oyster rakes were used from small boats to gather oysters in deeper waters; and in the 19th century, long-handled tongs made the job easier. By the latter 19th century, scallop dredges were attached to boats to scrape oyster beds at the bottom of the ocean floor. Because dredges tended to damage the beds, their use was highly restricted. Dredging was limited to sailboats until 1969 to control over-harvesting in Connecticut, and the oyster sloop was designed for this purpose. Built in 1948, Hope is considered the last-built Connecticut oyster sloop.