July 22, 2019
I received several inquiries for estimates of what the commercial fishery impacts of the prolonged and twice opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway since February 2019. The commercial fishery impacts consist of losses of wild and farmed oyster harvests by commercial Mississippi fishers and farmers due to the prolonged freshwater intrusion. One approach to estimate the direct losses of this man-made disaster is by comparing the 2019 and later years’ landings and dockside values to previous years benchmarks.
There are no monthly data on commercial dockside values for oysters published by NOAA Fisheries for 2017, 2018, and 2019. The percent losses are reports by MS Department of Marine Resources. Those percentages are indicators of what we have lost so far since it was opened on Feb. 27 to Mar. 30, 2019 and again on May 9 to Jul 4, 2019. The chart below tells us what we know about the dockside values of the commercial oyster fishery based on the availability of data. During the next five to ten years when all the monthly data on commercial oyster landing values become available, the final losses will be computed. For now, we can estimate that the potential direct loss is equal to base value times percent loss.
COMMERCIAL FISHERY IMPACTS
Recent state sampling results indicate that almost all of the oyster resources were totally devastated (~100% mortality). With almost total devastation of the oyster fishery by Hurricane Katrina, it took more than two years for any significant landings to occur after some serious management intervention by state regulatory agency. The expected 2019 landings of oysters will be ZERO, and in 2020, landings will be very insignificant if not ZERO without immediate management intervention.
The commercial oyster fishery impacts consist of losses of wild and farmed oyster harvests by commercial Mississippi fishers and farmers due to the prolonged freshwater intrusion. The chart below shows the monthly CUMULATIVE dockside values of oyster landings in Mississippi in two recent time periods. Using the 2014-16 averages as benchmarks, the cumulative dockside values starting at $580,000 in March and ending at $1,247,000 in December. The average dockside values during the 2012-16 benchmark period start at $356,000 in March and end at $1,376,00 in December.
SEAFOOD PROCESSING IMPACTS
The estimates of direct losses mentioned above cover only oyster harvesting. There are other significant post-harvest economic activities. Oyster shucking is a major economic activity in the state. There are also significant wholesale and retail activities of oyster products performed by local seafood dealers and restaurants. The devastation of the oyster fishery will seriously hamper the processing and distribution activities of these seafood establishments. Inclusion of the direct losses to post-harvest economic activities is necessary for the estimation of the economic impacts of the man-made disaster.
TOTAL ECONOMIC IMPACTS
Finally, economic impacts include direct, indirect, and induced effects. The direct losses represent the direct impact of the commercial fisheries affected by the prolonged freshwater intrusion. There are also backward and forward interactions of the commercial harvesting sector with other economic sectors.
The entire blue crab and oyster industry created a total of $35 million economic contribution to the state of Mississippi in 2015. This estimate includes blue crab and oyster harvesting, processing, wholesaling and retailers of wild shrimp and other shrimp products. The industry also generated a total of more than 800 jobs in the state economy.
In the past when separate data for the blue crab and oyster industry were available, estimates showed that the entire crab industry created a total of more than $13 million economic contribution to the state economy in 2009. The industry also generated a total of more than 350 jobs in the entire state.