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The crab capital of the world might be in trouble, at least according to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The study claims that Maryland, and Crisfield in particular, will be among the hardest hit as sea levels continue to rise.
While the news may come as a surprise to many outside of the community, few local residents were caught off guard by this finding. Tammy Abbot, who is a native of Crisfield, has been noticing an increase in flood tides already.
“I don’t think Crisfield will be here too much longer really and it’s sad,” Abbott said in a report by ABC7.
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy planner, Brett Ambretter, agrees.
“They’ve got some time to do some serious planning and take a good luck [sic] at what they want their community to look like in the future,” he said.
The study examines 167 communities across 13 states that will face chronic inundation by 2035. In order for tidal flooding to be considered chronic inundation, 10% of the total usable, non-wetland must be covered by high tide floods at least 26 times per year.
While the definition might seem arbitrary, it can have a very real effect on communities.
“For some parts of the Eastern Shore, there soon may be no more there there,” Joe Heim quipped in his piece for The Washington Post.
The sudden rise in the water could have a serious effect on the economy of many of these small towns, many of which rely heavily on tourism. For a town like Crisfield, which is projected to experience chronic flooding within the next few years, the change could be calamitous.
In 2015, Americans took 1.7 billion leisure trips. In Somerset County, tourism is a billion dollar industry, with Crisfield being one of the primary earners. But increased flooding could prove a deterrent for those looking to get away to an idyllic seafront community.
Another key concern is the effect the rising of sea levels will have on the local crab population. According to the National Wildlife Federation, continued rise in sea levels could significantly damage both recreational and commercial crab fishing along the east coast.
That, in turn, could increase pressure on other suppliers for crabs across the United States. The added burden could lead to population decreases in other areas, too. Already, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries places an annual 30-day long prohibition on commercial harvesting of blue Crabs and use of all crab traps in state waters, in an effort to protect the health of local populations.
This could lead to a domino effect, damaging a number of different industries. Even the Restaurant industry, which enjoys $738 billion in annual sales, could be significantly damaged by higher seafood prices.
But not everyone is worried about the rising sea levels. The Director of Coastal Planning with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Catherine McCall, feels confident in the work she and her office have done in preparation for the changes to come.
“Sea-level rise is what the state has been preparing for,” she told The Washington Post. “We understand what that risk is, and we’ve done a lot to prepare our communities for that.”