Purely economic damages

The inaccessibility of coastal waters to fishermen and sailors together with fishing bans interrupt fish landings, and the buyers at fish markets find themselves without any produce to purchase. Suppliers of ice, fuel for fishing boats and food for aquaculture find themselves without any customers. Forbidden access to beaches leads to a decrease in the activity of restaurants, cafés and shops, which in turn reduce the produce they purchase for consumption.

Expenditure and loss of revenue: closing off a port using a containment boom

Behind the economic operators directly affected by the material impossibility of continuing their activity
or selling their produce, a chain of suppliers and customers find themselves affected to a varying extent, according to the dependence of their revenue on the activities disrupted by the pollution. Wages are suspended, local consumption decreases, social charges are no longer paid, and unemployment benefits must be allocated. Claimants also want to see secondary effects taken into account in compensation.

Consumers of sea-related produce, tourism and other resources in the area hit by the pollution naturally turn to other areas to satisfy their needs. These other areas logically do their best to satisfy these new customers and build up their loyalty. Once the environmental situation has been re-established in the affected area, further expenses must be incurred to retrieve the lost clientele. Accurately assessing this expenditure is no easy task, all the more so as the loss of customers extends beyond the polluted area.


The media rarely specifies the exact boundaries of the affected zone and easily assimilates peripheral areas to the actual pollution in overly simplified maps and diagrams. The damage in these circumstances is not a consequence of the pollution itself, but rather of the effect of the media.

Expenditure: the cost of protecting an oyster farm using fine-mesh plastic netting

Precise quantification of the various damages poses a multitude of complex problems and compensation claims are often the source of conflicts which must be resolved in court. Not only must the court determine the sum total of losses and expenditure to restore the situation, but also to what extent the losses and expenditure are really due to the pollution.

Press cuttings commenting on the financial losses of victims of the Aegean Sea in Corunna, Spain (1992)