Journal of Ocean and Coastal Economics

Document Type



Disease and overfishing have led to a dramatic decline in wild populations and subsequent harvests of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica over the past few decades in Delaware and other states along the Atlantic Coast. However, in addition to their value as food to consumers, oysters, whether wild populations or cultured stocks, can provide ecosystem services such as nutrient removal, which may result in localized water quality improvements. Consequently, recent policies in Delaware have sought to establish and grow an oyster aquaculture industry. However, a key challenge to achieving efficient levels of industry growth and water quality improvements is that current market prices for oysters in other states and those projected for a Delaware market do not account for the value of these additional ecosystem services. In my analysis, I consider the projected market value of oysters harvested from the Delaware Inland Bays, estimate the additional value of their nutrient removal benefits, and propose a framework of financial incentives needed to increase the supply of oysters and therefore improved water quality. I then conclude with a brief discussion of how this incentive program could be structured as well addressing the regional differences in the oyster aquaculture industry and within the scientific literature.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.