CHARLESTOWN — Law enforcement officers with the state Department of Environmental Management are investigating the possible theft of a large number of oysters from an oyster growing operation in a privately-leased section of Quonochontaug Pond over the weekend.
DEM officials confirmed Tuesday that the agency is investigating complaints after a neighboring business owner and another witness reported seeing three men at the Quonnie Rock Oysters lease site within the salt pond.
“We are not sure the intent. There have been times where people have crossed into the lease-section accidentally,” Quonnie Rock owner Jim Arnoux said in a phone interview Tuesday. He said there were “a good amount” missing and noted that, with the assistance of Jennifer Scappatura-Harrington of Quonnie Oyster Co., the theft was reported to the environmental agency.
According to witness accounts, DEM officials confirmed, the men were seen near the site on Saturday, removing oysters and puttiung them in a 5-gallon bucket. Arnoux was alerted and remained at the site Sunday, when at least two men returned. DEM officials were notified and started an investigation.
“DEM appreciates the hard work involved in growing oysters as well as the sense of violation experienced by one who is victimized by an alleged theft of property,” DEM spokesman Michael Healey said. “Because this case is under investigation and might result in charges, we cannot comment any further.”
Healey said the agency would release additional information when the investigation is complete.