A recently published study by the University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences found that recreational anglers may have lost up to $585 million from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. According to the press release from the university, that number is calculated from lost fishing opportunities, travel costs, canceled trips, and other changes that occurred because of the disaster. The study does not take into account the losses suffered by fishing guides, retail establishments, and others who worked in the sport fishing industry.

“At an estimated 206 million gallons, the Deepwater Horizon is the largest marine oil spill in the history of the United States,” researchers wrote in the study.

Researchers said that the oil and gas company widely criticized for its part in the spill, BP, may have to shell out millions in additional financial compensation. In 2012, BP agreed to pay commercial fishermen $2.3 billion for the spill’s disastrous impact on fishing in the Gulf Coast. Local anglers who expect to get a paycheck, however, are bound to be disappointed. According to University of Florida professor and study co-author Sherry Larkin, if federal, state, or tribal trustees do decide to seek reparations from BP, those funds will likely go towards making ecosystem improvements, fish stocking efforts, or other conservation-minded programs.

“These are sizable losses borne by recreational users of publicly owned resources,” Larkin said.

Researchers estimated that about 40 million fishing trips are taken in the region every year, some of which are surveyed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For the study, Larkin and her colleagues analyzed 70,000 fishing trips from 2006 to 2010 to observe noticeable changes.

“The researchers found that anglers fishing from shore and those that hire fishing guides lost the most, an average of $29.65 and $34.27 per trip, perhaps because they are less able to change their fishing conditions as compared to those who pilot their own boats, who lost the least at $2.23 per trip. The study also found that private and rental boat users were affected differently, some substantially but others not much,” read the press release.

Many anglers instead diverted their trips to the Atlantic Coast or unaffected parts of Florida. Larkin said this research is the first attempt to put a dollar amount on the losses suffered by recreational anglers in 2010, but she did not know whether there are any plans to present the study as evidence in a legal case against BP. Larkin also added that the study did not account for the vast environmental damage done to the Gulf Coast ecosystem.

Image courtesy NOAA

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