A healthy Chesapeake Bay brings with it a multitude of benefits, including cleaner water for swimming and boating and habitat to support more fish and wildlife. But when Chesapeake Bay Program partners signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement in 2014, they committed to a vision for a wholly sustainable Bay: not just environmentally, but economically as well. Spanning six states and Washington D.C., the Chesapeake Bay region contains more than 18 million people who are all connected to the Bay and its waterways, and many of whom, in whether directly or indirectly, rely on the Bay’s contribution to the region’s economy. Below are five industries tied to a healthy Bay.
Recreation and tourism
The Chesapeake Bay, its rivers and streams and the surrounding forests, mountains and outdoor sights are a huge draw to visitors, both watershed residents and those from out of the area. The region’s 55 National Park Service sites, scores of state parks, 15 wildlife refuges, 1,269 public access sites and hundreds of cultural areas draw millions of people to the outdoors each year to enjoy all these sites have to offer.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, over 16.5 million people in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia participated in wildlife-related recreation, such as hunting or bird-watching, in 2011. Furthermore, those people spent over $18 billion dollars on trip-related expenses, equipment and other needs.
Millions of visitors means a need for staff to operate the parks, guides to lead trips, outfitters to supply equipment, hotels to house visitors and so much more. Employers in recreation and tourism in the region support over 820,800 jobs and over $13 billion in income annually; another 20,000 self-employed participants also attribute to this industry.
While all of these parks and public access points are important, watershed residents don’t reap all the benefits if they are not healthy—which can in turn hurt local businesses. For example, chemical contaminants in the water can be ingested and carried by fish of all sizes, and subsequent fish consumption advisories can lead to fewer trips on the water and lost sales at gear shops. Similarly, a 2005 fish kill in the Shenandoah River, likely caused by poor water quality, led to an estimated $700,000 in lost retail sales and revenue.
Commercial fishing has long been associated with the Chesapeake Bay. The iconic image of the Bay is of watermen out on the water, putting down crab pots or tonging for oysters. These aren’t just images, but real people doing real—and often difficult—jobs. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the fishing industry accounts for 7,952 jobs in the states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Blue crabs are an important species that require clean water, abundant beds of underwater grasses and sufficient dissolved oxygen to survive. A healthy Bay not only supports the stability and growth of their population, but also supports a regional—and national—industry. In 2014, Maryland and Virginia accounted for over one-third of total blue crab landings revenue in the United States, totaling over $80 million.
Outside of the Bay itself are rivers and streams that are vital habitat to important species like striped bass. Also known as rockfish, striped bass return to the Bay each year to spawn in its freshwater tributaries, and are a prized up and down the East Coast for commercial and recreational fishing.
Along with oysters, blue crabs and striped bass, the Bay and its tributaries support fishing of scallops, black sea bass, menhaden, summer flounder and white perch—to name a few.
Aquaculture, or underwater farming, is the growing of fish and shellfish in a controlled environment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 137 aquaculture farms in Maryland and Virginia generated nearly $62 million in sales in 2013. Two-thirds of those farms were raising shellfish like clams and oysters and likely used the Bay and its tributaries to grow their stock. A clean Bay means healthy oyster habitat: the water needs to be clean enough to keep so that their oysters aren’t buried in sediment or exposed to other things that could weaken and kill them.
Aquaculture is a particularly large industry in Virginia, where in 2013, it made up over 30 percent of hard clam and Eastern oyster aquaculture sales in the U.S.
Outside of the growing or catching of fish is an entire industry situated to support it. Distributors transport fish to supermarkets, canning facilities and restaurants that turn around and sell that food to consumers. Some fish is processed and turned into other products such as fish oils and pet food. From processors and dealers to wholesale and distributors, the seafood industry contributes to over 24,000 jobs in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
With more and more people wanting to buy local food, supermarkets and restaurants both on the Bay and throughout the region benefit from having an abundance of watermen and commercial fisheries nearby.
But the process doesn’t end at the table. Organizations like the Oyster Recovery Partnership collect oyster shells and return them to the Bay and its tributaries to help bolster and rebuild oyster reefs. While baby oysters can grow on a number of surfaces, they prefer to attach to oyster shells, so recycling old shell is the best way to promote reef growth. And since oysters are filter feeders—meaning they help clean the Bay’s water as they eat and grow—more oysters means a cleaner Bay and a stronger seafood industry.
Restoring the Bay’s health means reducing the amount of pollutants like nutrients and sediment in the rivers and streams that empty into the Bay. But sending cleaner water to the Bay also means sending cleaner water to utility companies and wastewater treatment plants. By reducing the amount of pollutants in the water, water utility companies reduce costs needed to bring water up to standards. A study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that for every $1 spent of source-water protection, $27 were saved in water treatment costs.
One of a utility’s biggest costs is removing coagulants—sediment—from the water. A Brooking’s Institute study found that a one percent decrease in sediment in the water can lead to a 0.05 percent decrease in treatment costs. If there is less sediment in the water, then companies can save money on treatment and focus it instead on infrastructure upgrades and other projects. Potentially, those savings will be passed down to consumers through a lower water bill.
The list of businesses and sectors that benefit from a healthy Bay does not end here. Watermen buy fishing equipment, charter boats require service and tourists who visit the area spend their money in hotels, shops and restaurants. Restoring the Chesapeake Bay is good for the critters that live in its watershed, but it’s also good for us.
Does your work benefit from a healthy Bay? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by Will Parson and Steve Droter
A new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) indicates the economic benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay could total $130 billion each year, as the watershed’s “pollution diet” creates clean air and water, protects properties from floods and fuels local restaurant and recreation industries.
Image courtesy olorak/Flickr
The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which the Annapolis-based nonprofit calls the Clean Water Blueprint, was established in 2010 to reduce pollution loads across the watershed. It limits the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment that can enter rivers and streams to improve water quality. Jurisdictions use Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to put these limits in place.
According to the report, which was produced by ecological economist Spencer Phillips and CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee, the annual value of the natural benefits provided by a “pre-Blueprint” Bay is an estimated $107 billion. Once the TMDL is put in place and its benefits are realized, this amount would increase 21 percent to $129.7 billion. While Virginia is set to benefit most from a restored Bay—increasing its annual earnings by $8.3 billion—other watershed states would also benefit: Pennsylvania would see an earnings increase of $6.1 billion, Maryland $4.6 billion, New York $1.9 billion, West Virginia $1.3 billion and Delaware $205 million.
“The conclusion is clear: the region’s environmental and economic health will improve when we fully implement the [Clean Water] Blueprint,” said Phillips in a media release. “The cleanup plan was designed with the understanding that all people and communities in the watershed can contribute to making the Bay cleaner, and that everyone will benefit when pollution is reduced. Our analysis confirms this.”
While its report doesn’t address the annual watershed-wide cost of restoration, CBF estimates this figure is in the range of $5 billion.
Note: This blog post was written by a staff-member of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
An economic analysis from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) shows that federal investments in on-the-ground restoration can stimulate local economies, creating jobs and supporting small businesses.
With a focus on two of its habitat restoration programs—the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and the Coastal Program—the USFWS determined that for every federal dollar spent, $7 to $9 of restoration work happens on the ground and almost $2 of economic activity is gained by the state in which the work takes place.
Both of these nation-wide programs use federal and private funding to implement on-the-ground habitat restoration projects on public and privately owned land. According to the USFWS, the programs' impacts cut across two dimensions: first, their understood expertise and stable funding pulls in additional funding from other partners; second, the programs’ spending creates work, generates tax revenues and stimulates local economies through paid wages and subsequent spending.
Image courtesy Margrit/Flickr
In Maryland, for instance, the Coastal Program has directed $1.4 million toward the eradication of nutria from marshes and wetlands. Introduced to the region in the mid-1940s, the invasive nutria has destructive feeding habits, pulling up plant roots that would otherwise hold valuable marshland in place. The Maryland Nutria Project, which is administered by the USFWS and brings federal, state and private partners together to trap and manage nutria, has created more than 55 jobs and generated $2.5 million in spending on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“The Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Coastal programs are important drivers for creating employment,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe in a media release. “The benefits reach far beyond the local communities where these projects take place to provide national economic stimulus. At the same time, this restoration work provides benefits to all Americans by creating healthy natural areas, including shorelines, streams, wetlands and forests on privately owned lands.”
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.