July 23, 2019
I would like to provide estimates of the potential direct losses associated with the prolonged and twice opening of the Bonnet Carre Spillway since February 2019 to the blue crab fishery in Mississippi. The commercial fishery impacts consist of losses of wild blue crab harvests by commercial Mississippi crabbers 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 blue crabs 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 blue crab fishery based on the availability of data. During the next five to ten years when all the monthly data on commercial blue crab 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
The commercial blue crab fishery impacts consist of losses of wild blue crab harvests by commercial Mississippi crabbers due to the prolonged freshwater intrusion. Recent state reports indicate that commercial blue crab landings in June and July 2019 declined by 21 and 39 percent as compared to the previous five-year average, respectively.
The chart below shows the monthly CUMULATIVE dockside values of blue crab landings in Mississippi in two recent periods. With the 2014-16 averages as benchmarks, the cumulative dockside values start at $207,000 in March and end at $1,033,000 in December. The average dockside values during the 2012-16 benchmark period start at $178,000 in March and end at $848,000 in December.
SEAFOOD PROCESSING IMPACTS
The estimates of direct losses described above cover only blue crab harvesting. There are other significant post-harvest economic activities. Blue crab meat picking is a major economic activity in the state. There are also significant wholesale and retail activities of blue crab products performed by local seafood dealers and restaurants. The damage of the blue crab 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 estimates includes blue crab and oyster harvesting, processing, wholesaling and retailers of blue crab and oyster 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 $7 million economic contribution to the state economy in 2009. The industry also generated a total of more than 200 jobs in the entire state.