An investment in habitat conservation could be a smart one for fisheries and the economies that depend on them, according to a new report.
In More Habitat Means More Fish, released this week by Restore Americas Estuaries, the American Sportfishing Association and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the link between healthy habitats and strong fisheries is made clear: without feeding or breeding grounds, fish cannot grow or reproduce, which means fewer fish and a decline in fisheries-dependent jobs, income and recreational opportunities.
Most of the nation’s commercial and recreational fish depend on coastal and estuarine habitats for food and shelter. Investments and improvements in these habitats can have immediate and long-lasting effects on fish populations.
The construction of an oyster reef, for instance, can provide food and shelter to a number of aquatic species. The conservation of marshes and underwater grass beds can boost the number and diversity of fish and their prey. And the restoration of fish passage to once-blocked rivers can open up new habitat to those species that must migrate upstream to spawn.
“Investing in coastal and estuarine habitat restoration is essential… for the long-term future of our fisheries,” said Restore Americas Estuaries President and CEO Jeff Benoit in a media release. “In order to have fish, we have to have healthy habitat. If we want more fish, we need more healthy habitat.”
Read more about More Habitat Means More Fish.
Restoring urban streams can help restore urban communities, according to a new analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
In a report released last week, the USGS documents the contributions that the restoration of an Anacostia River tributary made to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, from the creation of jobs to the creation of open space for residents. The yearlong restoration of a 1.8 mile stretch of Watts Branch is one in a series of case studies highlighting the economic impacts of restoration projects supported by the Department of the Interior.
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region
Completed in 2011, the efforts to restore Watts Branch included the restoration of an eroded stream channel and the relocation and improvement of streamside sewer lines. The work—a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the District Department of the Environment, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority and others—reduced erosion, improved water quality and wildlife habitat, and provided local residents with an urban sanctuary where green space is otherwise limited.
The restoration project also accounted for 45 jobs, $2.6 million in local labor income and $3.4 million in value added to the District of Columbia and 20 counties in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
According to the EPA, $3.7 million in project implementation costs were funded by multiple agencies and organizations, including the EPA and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Read more about Restoring a Stream, Restoring a Community.
This month’s Ask a Scientist column focuses on a different kind of science: economics. We asked Beth McGee, senior scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to answer a question about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay to our region’s economy. As you’ll read, the Chesapeake Bay is more than an extraordinary ecological system – it’s also an incredibly valuable industry.
When you think of an “industry” – like the steel, health care or business industries – you think of a well-oiled, intricate business system. You could calculate the economic value of that industry in terms of jobs created, value of their product, and other economic benefits.
If you think about it, the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is also an enormous, productive industry. Like any other system, every part – rivers, wetlands, forests, animals, people and so on – has a role in the whole “machine” working at optimum levels.
So how much is the “Chesapeake Bay industry” worth? According to many economists, placing a value on the Bay is difficult because some of its features are difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. For example, how much is a beautiful sunrise over the Bay worth? Or the joy of catching our first rockfish of the season? Or watching our children play on the beach? Because we can’t quantify these values in terms of dollars, they are not explicitly factored into our estimate of the Bay’s value.
The best we can do to estimate the Bay’s overall economic value is to compile information on its tangible “products and services” – the “parts” of the entire Bay industry.
In 2004, the Blue Ribbon Finance Panel report estimated that the Bay’s value was more than one trillion dollars related to fishing, tourism, property values and shipping activities. If you were to adjust that figure for inflation, the number would have increased to roughly $1.144 trillion by 2011.
A recent report released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides some more specific examples of the economic benefits associated with the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
If you were to add income generated from forestry, recreational boating, ecotourism, heritage tourism, shipping, and many other industries, it’s easy to see how the “Chesapeake Bay Industry” could reach one trillion dollars.
That figure could be higher if we restored the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams to make them even more productive. When the Bay’s “products and services” decline, there are costs.
Investing in clean water technologies creates jobs and stimulates local economies. A recent study by the University of Virginia found that better agricultural practices, such as livestock stream exclusion, buffer plantings and cover crops, would generate significant positive economic impacts. Every $1 of state and/or federal funding invested in agricultural best management practices would generate $1.56 in economic activity in Virginia.
For urban areas, an analysis of the value of investing in water and sewer infrastructure concluded that these investments typically yield greater returns than most other types of public infrastructure. For example, $1 of water and sewer infrastructure investment increases private output (Gross Domestic Product) in the long-term by $6.35.
And what about the costs and benefits of regulation? A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute states: “Regulations are frequently discussed only in the context of their threat to job creation, while their role in protecting lives, public health, and the environment is ignored.” Furthermore, the same study reports that the Office of Management and Budget reviewed major regulations covering 2000 to 2010 and found that, each year, the benefits substantially exceeded the costs an average of seven times over.
No industry can survive using a model of constant production without reinvestment. The longer we go without “reinvesting our profits” into our “ecosystem machine” – via wastewater upgrades, critical habitat restoration, good development and agricultural practices, and other actions – the greater our costs are going to be in terms of our health, our quality of life, our pockets and the waterways we care about.
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.