Offshore Drilling

Potential Offshore Drilling Threatens the Bay

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributes $3.39 billion to the local economy per year. However, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, believes that this is not significant enough to exclude these states from offshore drilling. The proposal regarding offshore drilling presents an insurmountable threat to the east coast and especially the Chesapeake Bay. Blue crabs and striped bass are just two of many species that could be heavily impacted by offshore drilling – especially if there were a spill.

In the past, offshore drilling caused major complications for blue crabs. Three years after the disastrous 2010 Louisiana oil spill, the crabs living in the Gulf were still severely altered. Many fishermen reported that they were pulling up empty crab nets day after day. Even worse, the small amount of crabs caught commonly had no claws, points were burned off, and some had severe shell deformities. Dispersant, a chemical used to break down oil droplets, brought its own challenges for crabs after the oil spill. These toxic components were found in crab shells and many were killed as a result. Could you imagine this happening to our blue crabs?

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

But how would offshore drilling in the Atlantic impact our Chesapeake critters?

In the beginning of their lifecycle, blue crabs hatch into larvae where they are transported into the ocean. They grow, feed and molt in this area and the mouth of the bay from June to September. Another iconic bay species, striped bass, live throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, but part of their life cycle also includes returning to the ocean after they spawn. If an oil spill occurred in the ocean during these critical points, a year class of these species could be compromised.

Blue crabs and striped bass are not only ecologically important but they have a huge economic value. Every year, Chesapeake Bay watermen provide approximately a third of the nation’s crabs and striped bass bring in approximately $500 million from activities related to fishing. Clearly, offshore drilling’s threats would be devastating and widespread.

 Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program

Offshore drilling brings extreme threats to the Chesapeake Bay and everyone connected to it. Not only is it important for us to safeguard the bay for everyone now, but for future generations too. We can’t jeopardize the Chesapeake Bay, its wildlife, jobs, tourism, economic benefits and beauty on something that is so dangerous. This is why the Choose Clean Water Coalition submitted a sign-on letter to express our concerns to Secretary Zinke. Over 50 organizations signed this letter to show support in opposition to offshore drilling and our members plan to discuss this issue further with our members of Congress during our Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill.

It is important to remember the ocean and the bay are connected as a vital system, which provides a habitat for blue crabs and striped bass. Anything that happens in the ocean will eventually impact the bay and vice versa. We must say ‘no’ to offshore drilling to make sure no species are harmed during critical times in their lifecycle.

Taylor Stark is an intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.