Economic Impacts

The Chesapeake Bay strengthens the area's fishing, tourism, and real estate industries, generating economic and recreational benefits estimated at about  $33 billion a year ("Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Bay"); however, these industries have suffered as a result of the degradation of the Bay area's ecosystems and of the water pollution of the Bay itself.


The main fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay are blue crabs, oysters, and striped bass/rockfish (Dewar, et al.), and the Chesapeake watermen supply as much as a third of the nation's blue crabs each year. These fisheries contribute a great deal to the Bay area's economies. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributed $3.39 billion in sales, $890 million in income, and almost 34,000 jobs to the local economy. Watermen used to be able to rotate among these fisheries according to the seasons of the year, which protected them from economic hardship in years when one of the species was scarce and while also reducing the likelihood of overfishing (Dewar, et al.). However, watermen now struggle to maintain a livelihood in any of these fisheries.


    According to CBF, Chesapeake Bay watermen supply as much as a third of the nation's blue crabs each year ("The Economic Impact of the Bay"). However, "in May 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce officially declared the Chesapeake Bay commercial blue crab fishery a failure and an economic disaster," meaning that the states qualified for a combined $20 million in federal disaster funds (Dewar, et al.) The decline of crabs between 1998 and 2006 has resulted in a loss of about $640 million to Maryland and Virginia (Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences) ("The Economic Impact of the Bay")
    Maryland and Virginia have suffered more than $4 billion in annual losses because of the decline of industries related to oyster harvesting over the past three decades ("The Economic Impact of the Bay") 
    Although the striped bass bounced back from a severe decline in the 1970s and 1980s, the population is now at a high risk due to a high prevalence of disease and possibly a lack of prey (Chesapeake Bay Program).


The Chesapeake Bay is an important tourist and recreation attraction in the region. According to Pew, countless tourists visit its 12,000 miles of shoreline (
"Cleaning Up the Chesapeake Bay") which generates income and jobs for local residents of the area. Tourism and recreation activities include boating, fishing, wildlife watching, and more. About $2.03 billion in revenue and 32,025 jobs are generated each year in Maryland due to its recreational boating industry, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation quotes from an Economic Impact of Maryland Boating in 2007 report. Additionally, eight million wildlife watchers spent $636 million, $960 million, and $1.4 billion in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, respectively, on trip-related expenses and equipment in 2006 (U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce) ("The Economic Impact of the Bay"). Striped bass alone result in $500 million in economic activity related to fishing expenditures, travel, and lodging each year. In terms of real estate, clean water can increase the value of a single family home that is located 4,000 feet or closer to the shoreline by up to 25 percent ("The Economic Impact of the Bay"), so cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay would help the economy in that way and many other ways (see below).



Facts from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation:
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s annual costs for clean air and water regulations from October 1, 1999, to September 30, 2009, ranged from $26 to $29 billion, while benefits ranged from $82 to $533 billion (World Resources Institute)
  • Approximately, 20,000 construction jobs are created by each $1 billion invested on water and wastewater projects (Clean Water Council)
  • The number of environmental industry jobs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia has surged by 43 percent over the last two decades (Environmental Business International)
  • Every $1 of state/federal funding invested in agricultural best management practices would generate $1.56 in economic activity in Virginia (University of Virginia study)
  • The federal Clean Water Act alone spurs construction projects that are worth at least $11 billion per year to the national economy (EPA)
  • The U.S. environmental industry is worth $312 billion yearly (Environmental Business International).

Crab picture from