Back in 2004, Rob Hicks, Doug Lipton and I finished up a project for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to estimate the benefits of oyster reef restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. In the final report, we concluded:
Based on the mail survey, we conservatively estimate the non-use value
of a ten year oyster reef project, consisting of 10,000 acres of oyster sanctuary and 1,000
acres of artificial reef to be at least $114.95 million.
It's always good to see that sometimes, research is related to the real world (even if the direct link is unclear):
The world’s tallest building stands in Dubai. The largest city is in Japan. Brazil’s Amazon is the largest rain forest. And the largest airport sits in the middle of a Saudi Arabian desert.
But the world’s largest man-made oyster reef is in Maryland. It was finished just days ago, and rests at the watery bottom of Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore, spread across more acres than the national Mall.
Why is this a big deal? The reef in the creek is the foundation of Maryland’s bid to resuscitate its troubled oyster population, overfished to near oblivion for decades and attacked by a couple of killer diseases as vicious as the bubonic plague. Oysters are more than a food that pair well with a dash of lemon and sauce; they are cleaning machines that filter dirty water in the polluted Chesapeake Bay.
That’s why Maryland went through so much trouble to build 10 reefs where fishing isn’t allowed and stock them with more than 1 billion oysters. The state’s accomplishment at Harris Creek — the first completed reef with assistance from the Army Corps, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Nature Conservancy and others — could one day serve as a blueprint for restoring devastated oyster populations nationwide.
“People around the country are asking how in the hell did you guys do this?” said Mark Bryer, director of the Chesapeake Bay program for the nonprofit Nature Conservancy. “What was the secret sauce that got you guys to get to a large scale like this? I know we often talk about the bad things, we often don’t talk enough about the good things. This is one of the good things happening in the Chesapeake.”
The story of how oysters arrived at the 330-acre Harris Creek reef has all the charm of a pulp romance novel full of sex, foster children and their search for a good home. It starts at the Horn Point Laboratory run by the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge.
If our estimates are accurate, then the 330 acre Harris Creek reef (about 1/3 of 1000 acres) is providing about $38m in benefits.
Glad we could do our part.