CBF Report Finds Bay Pollution is Killing Jobs & Slowing Economy

Press Release
November 29, 2010

CBF Report Finds Bay Pollution is
Killing Jobs and Slowing Economy;
Further Cleanup Delays Could Cost Region Billions in Losses

(RICHMOND, VA.) ��� A new Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) report concludes that ongoing pollution of the Chesapeake Bay is costing the Bay region millions of dollars in lost jobs and income, creating a drag on the economy that will only worsen unless Bay cleanup efforts are accelerated.

The report, which brings together economic data from a variety of sources, also shows that taking the steps necessary to restore the Bay will generate new economic activity, including thousands of new jobs, in addition to restoring clean water and a thriving seafood industry.

"The Chesapeake Bay was once one of the most productive and profitable estuaries in the world, but pollution now threatens to kill the golden goose," said Ann Jennings, CBF Virginia Executive Director. "One has only to look at what has happened to the Bay's oyster and crab fisheries to see that dirty water is a job killer. Bay pollution is not only an ecological disaster; it's an economic one, too."

The CBF report documents how degradation of the Chesapeake Bay and its once-profitable fisheries has cost the region billions in losses. The Bay, worth an estimated $1 trillion even in its severely degraded state, is leaking money and jobs:

  • The value of Virginia's seafood harvest declined 30 percent between 1994 and 2004; Maryland's commercial seafood landings were off a similar percentage during the period.
  • Due to declining numbers of blue crabs, Virginia and Maryland watermen, crab processors, wholesalers, grocers, and restaurants suffered losses of $640 million between 1998 and 2006.
  • As a result of the crab population's decline, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared the Bay's soft crab fishery a disaster and directed $20 million in emergency relief to Virginia and Maryland.
  • In 1974 there were 136 oyster shucking houses; today only about a half-dozen remain.
  • The decline of the Chesapeake oyster and its fishery, once called "Chesapeake gold" because of its profitability, has cost Virginia and Maryland more than $4 billion in losses over the past 30 years.

Accelerated efforts to reduce pollution and return the Bay to good health will provide a significant boost to the region's economy, the report says.

A recent study by the University of Virginia, for example, found that implementing agricultural practices such as livestock stream exclusion, buffers, and cover crops would have significant 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. Implementing agricultural practices in Virginia to the levels necessary to restore the Bay would create nearly 12,000 jobs of approximately one year's duration.

The CBF report also notes that upgrading sewage treatment plants across the watershed has created hundreds of construction jobs and likely will create thousands more as the program grows. Also, upgrading individual septic systems has employed installers, electricians, and others involved in the business. Such upgrades have pumped millions of dollars into the region's economy.

"Virginia and the Bay states can have clean water and a growing economy," Jennings said. "Overwhelming majorities of Virginia voters understand that investments in clean water are investments in our economic future and our children's future."

John Holden, a longtime store manager for Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, noted the importance of healthy streams and rivers to commerce in Virginia.

"As an outdoor retailer and outfitter with eight stores across the state, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports sees clearly the benefits that clean waters bring to the state's economy," Holden said. "In 2010, we guided many paddling trips and sold boats to many citizens of Virginia. Many of these individuals have had life-changing experiences paddling on our best waterways and will go back and visit and explore more of what our state has to offer. Paddling trips in some of our most pristine places resulted in dollars left behind for food and lodging in nearby communities."

Travis Croxton, co-owner of Rappahannock River Oysters, an oyster aquaculture operation, said reducing Bay pollution is critical to the success of his business.

"Aquaculture farms such as ours are finally putting a few ripples in the national scene and bringing our oysters back to prominence, but we need help before we can truly make waves to revive the industry and get it on track to its fullest potential. Dead zones caused by too much runoff are still our chief source of concern and have the potential to wipe out our oysters, much as a drought can plague traditional farmland."

Lew Grimm, owner of Deltaville Yachting Center, underscored the importance of a clean Chesapeake Bay to his community in Middlesex County.

"The health of my business rides directly on the health of the Chesapeake Bay," he said "Our community and county receive one of their largest income sources from our customers, employees, and the marinas themselves. Simply put, no Bay, no people, no business."

A copy of the CBF report, "The Economic Argument for Cleaning Up the Bay and Its Rivers," can be found at cbf.org/economic-report.

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Founded in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay.

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