The Chesapeake Bay region’s economy has been significantly affected by water pollution in the Bay and its rivers, according to a new report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).
The report, The Economic Argument for Cleaning Up the Bay and Its Rivers, states that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, a federal “pollution diet” being developed to clean up the Bay and its rivers, will not only result in clean water and a healthy Bay, but also a strong regional economy.
“The Chesapeake Bay can be a fertile source of jobs as well as crabs and rockfish,” said CBF Maryland Executive Director Kim Coble. “This report totals up what we've lost economically with the Bay's decline, and how much more we stand to lose if we don't increase our commitment to reducing pollution.”
One of the Bay’s most significant contributions to the region’s economy is the seafood industry. A 2008 NOAA report indicated that the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributed $3 billion and more than 41,000 jobs to the local economy.
However, the blue crab and oyster fisheries have declined due to polluted water, resulting in substantial economic losses. Between 1998 and 2006, watermen, grocers, wholesalers, restaurants and crab processors in Maryland and Virginia lost about $640 million due to the decline of crabs in the Bay. The decline of the Chesapeake oyster and its fishery – which were once called “Chesapeake gold” because of their profitability – has cost Virginia and Maryland more than $4 billion in losses in the past 30 years.
The Chesapeake Bay’s economic contributions go well beyond fisheries. Efforts to clean up the Bay and its rivers will also benefit the region’s economy, according to the report. A recent University of Virginia study found that implementing agricultural conservation practices such as buffers, cover crops and livestock fencing to levels necessary to restore the Bay would create 12,000 jobs in one year.
Clean waterways are also linked to increased property values. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study indicated that clean water can increase by up to 25 percent the value of single-family homes that are located as much as 4,000 feet from the water.
Economic losses are not restricted to the immediate areas surrounding the Bay. In Pennsylvania, nearly two million people go fishing each year, contributing more than $1.6 billion to the economy. However, polluted streams have restricted brook trout to a small fraction of its historic distribution. In Virginia, where one million anglers cast their rods each year, a 2005 fish kill on the Shenandoah River resulted in roughly $700,000 lost in retail sales and revenue.
Nature activities such as wildlife watching, ecotourism and boating dependent are large economic drivers for the Bay region and are all dependent on clean water. Roughly eight million people spent $636 million, $960 million and $1.4 billion in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, respectively, in 2006 on wildlife-watching expenses and equipment.
For more details, read the full report at CBF’s website.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) and its partners processed, cleaned and transported more than 60,000 bushels of oyster shells in 2010, using the shells to produce and plant more than 450 million baby oysters in 316 acres of the Chesapeake Bay.
Oyster shells are a limited resource and a key part of Maryland’s oyster restoration efforts, according to ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel. Reusing oyster shells provides habitat for baby oysters, which need to attach to another oyster’s hard shell to survive.
The oyster shells were collected in part through ORP’s new Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance, a first-of-its-kind network of restaurants, caterers, seafood wholesalers and citizen volunteers that donate and/or collect used oyster shells. In its first year, the alliance attracted more than 50 establishments from Annapolis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and other areas.
Oyster shells collected from alliance members are used by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Lab Hatchery in Cambridge, Maryland. After letting the shells age for about one year, the hatchery adds the shells and oyster larvae to swimming pool-size tanks, where the larvae attach to the shells. The resulting baby oysters, called spat, are planted in designated areas in the Bay.
Through the Shell Recycling Alliance, ORP collected nearly 2 million oyster shells, which will result in more than 20 million oysters being planted back into the Chesapeake Bay over the next year.
“To meet our goals, it is critical that a greater number of shells are returned for reseeding and we hope this alliance will encourage increased participation in the coming year,” Abel said.
ORP works closely with UMCES, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other partners to restore and protect oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
For more information about ORP and oyster shell recycling, visit www.oysterrecovery.org.
Thanksgiving is nearly here, and we’re thankful for so many Chesapeake Bay things this year. From ospreys, rockfish and cattails to your favorite parks and rivers, take a moment to tell us what feature of the Chesapeake Bay makes you especially thankful to live and play near the nation’s largest estuary.
Around our office, we've heard people express their thanks about a lot of Chesapeake Bay things...here's a few!
Leave a comment telling us what you're thankful for in the Chesapeake Bay watershed!
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question came from Katherine, who asked, “What problems are invasive species causing in the Chesapeake Bay, and what is being done about them?”
Invasive species can be very harmful to the ecosystems they invade. Many invasive species thrive in their new habitats because they lack the natural predators and diseases that may threaten them in their native habitats. Without these things keeping their populations in check, invasive species are able reproduce and thrive.
However, invasive species seriously threaten our native plants and animals by encroaching on their food and habitat, often leaving native species without food or shelter in their natural environments. For example, mute swans can destroy bay grass beds while feeding. Without bay grasses, many other animals have nothing to eat or nowhere to take shelter, and the health of the Bay suffers as well.
It is estimated that about 42 percent of the native plants and animals listed as threatened or endangered in the United States are at risk for further decline due to invasive species.
Once established in a new habitat, invasive species are very difficult to completely eradicate. Controlling invasive species can be very expensive and requires a lot of time, cooperation and commitment among multiple agencies and jurisdictions.
A variety of control tactics are used, depending on the species and the state where the problem exists. In Maryland, mute swans have been successfully controlled to the point where only 500 were estimated to be present in the state in 2009. Water chestnut, an invasive aquatic plant, is controlled by hands-on removal. Scientists and volunteers remove the plants by hand, pulling them from where they grow in rivers and creeks so the plants are not able to spread their seeds. Water chestnut was thought to have been eradicated multiple times but has come back repeatedly, so the struggle to control it continues.
The best way to control invasive species is to not allow them to be introduced in the first place. Zebra mussels are one invasive species that you can help to control. If you boat in freshwater areas, make sure you wash your boat off thoroughly and let it dry completely so the mussels can't "hitchhike" to another water body.
If you spot an invasive species, notify the appropriate agency so that the proper measures may be taken to deal with it.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events.