Eight Business-Busting Oil Spills

Oil spills hurt businesses around the world long before the gulf disaster.

ByABC News
May 3, 2010, 4:45 PM

May 4, 2010 — -- As environmentalists worry how the Gulf of Mexico's spreading oil slick will affect the area's delicate ecosystems, economists are fretting about the spill's economic consequences.

"Tourism, fishing, all related industries may be fundamentally changed for as much as a generation," economist David Kotok, the chief investment officer for Cumberland Advisors, said in a recent note.

Damages from the spill, Kotok said, could run between tens of billions to hundreds of billions of dollars.

At least some of the cleanup costs should be covered by the $1.6 billion Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a fund created in 1986 and funded through a tax on oil companies since 1990, following the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster.

The Gulf of Mexico spill and its expected economic impact have often been compared to Exxon Valdez, but a number of other spills in the years following Exxon Valdez have also taken heavy tolls on economies around the globe. Below, ABCNews.com takes a quick look at some of the biggest oil spills to damage bottom lines since 1989.

San Francisco, 2007

The Cosco Busan, a container ship, spilled more than 50,000 gallons of fuel into San Francisco Bay after crashing into a tower of the San Francisco Bay Bridge in November 2007. It was a relatively minor spill by historical standards, but it created big problems for the area's local crab fishermen.

The disaster prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to temporarily halt fishing around the bay a week before commercial crab season was scheduled to begin.

"A lot of people were hurt by this spill," Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. "Everybody had spent their last dime getting ready to go crab fishing and the bills all piled up."

Some two years later, a government study found that herring fishermen may also have been hurt by the spill: researchers found deformed herring eggs at oil spill sites.

The total cost of the bay cleanup, meanwhile, was $70 million, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Lebanon, 2006

A power plant in Lebanon released more than 4 million gallons of oil into the Mediterranean Sea after it was hit by Israeli airstrikes during the country's war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

Commercial harbors and public beaches were damaged by the spill, hurting the local fishing and tourism industries. The clean-up of the spill and efforts to benefit both industries in 2006 and 2007 cost more than $1.8 billion, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme.

Spain, 2002

The oil tanker Prestige dumped some 17 million gallons after sustaining damage -- and ultimately sinking -- during a storm near Galicia, Spain, in November 2002.

The spill paralyzed local fishing for months, forcing the closure of fisheries. After they reopened, some local organizations reported an 80 percent drop in their normal fish catch, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Damage to fishing, tourism and other sectors totalled an estimated $5 billion, according to a report by the fund.