TIP 12 - Effects of Oil Pollution on Social and Economic Activities

In addition to the costs incurred in cleaning up oil spills, serious financial losses are sometimes experienced by economic sectors that rely on clean seawater and clean coastal areas. Typically, the greatest economic impacts are felt in commercial fisheries and tourism, although a great number of other sectors can be affected, such as power plants, shipping, salt production or seawater desalination.

This paper considers some of the effects of oil spills on a variety of coastal industries and social activities and considers measures which might reduce their impact. Given their particular importance, the effects of oil spills on fisheries and mariculture are considered in a separate Technical Information Paper.


Tourism is a key economic sector in most populated coastal areas of the world that can be disrupted by the presence of oil in the water or on the shore, with the most serious consequences likely to arise just before or during the main tourist season.

Disruption of traditional coastal activities such as bathing, boating, angling and diving can have a consequent effect for hotels, restaurants and bar owners, as well as sailing schools, camp sites, caravan parks and the many other businesses and individuals who gain their livelihood from tourism.

Restaurants serving seafood may additionally experience losses due to reductions in supplies, while those businesses supplying hotels and restaurants may also experience reduced incomes unless they are able to make up losses elsewhere. Much depends on the extent to which such businesses are dependent on the coastline affected. 



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