Estimating the Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Fisheries Landings

A Preliminary Exploration

by Jacqueline Fiore, Craig A. Bond, Shanthi Nataraj

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What were the direct impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DH) oil spill on the Gulf fisheries industry? This paper reports results from an ex-post analysis of the spill using publicly available, routinely collected data on landings, revenues, and fishing effort for select fish species in the Gulf. Our methods examine the overall impact of the oil spill as well as changes that occurred over time. A key contribution of our work is that it goes beyond simple pre-post analysis and applies various identification strategies that have been developed in the econometric literature, in order to identify the causal effects of the spill. Nevertheless, the limitations of the data preclude many strategies. Investigation of the short and longer term dynamics of the Gulf fisheries has important implications for understanding the resilience of Gulf communities in the face of large-scale environmental events like DH. The dynamic path of certain indicators, such as fisheries landings and revenues, can provide information about the resilience of fisheries to oil spill events at the sectoral level, aggregating the various physical, policy, and behavioral responses that combine to form the latent resilience construct. These interim findings may help stakeholders, policy-makers, and researchers define the impacts of environmental disasters over time, understand the dynamics of response, and plan for future uncertain events.

This research was conducted by RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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