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Scientists and economists at work

The State, the company Amoco and private fundings financed a large program of studies involving a hundred French and American scientists and economists.
A wide range of people were involved in research, including staff from the University of Western Brittany (UBO), the INRA economics laboratory in Rennes (National Institute for Agronomic Research), the Brittany Oceanological Centre (Oceans Exploitation Centre (CNEXO), today Ifremer), the marine station of Roscoff, the ornithological station of l’île Grande affiliated with the “Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux” (Bird Protection League) and from private research departments, each in its area of activity, to quantify the damages to private properties, public facilities, economic loss and impact on the environment. They planned to assess their results five and then ten years later.
The French state and the villages made an account of their response expenditures and of the financial support allocated to fishermen, shellfish farmers and tourism professional. Three teams of economists worked on the quantification of commercial and image losses. Furthermore twenty-five ecological studies were conducted on various damaged areas and shoreline types. These studies raised a lot of questions: 

  • How can roadwork expenses due to pollution response operations be distinguished from normal maintenance?
  • How can on-foot fishing losses be quantified, when no statistics are available?
  • Is it possible to increase the rate of oil weathering process in places where it cannot be removed?
  • Is it possible to accelerate the natural restoration of the seabed?
  • Will fish, crustaceans and shellfish born just after the disaster develop normally?

                                                     (Source : Dauvin J.-C. Mar. Poll. Bull., 1998, 36(9) 669-676)


All these issues were difficult, time-consuming and expensive to resolve and results differed from activity to activity, from species to species and from place to place. On top of these constraints, Amoco experts carried out their own studies, questioning the results of the French scientists. Lawyers made considerable efforts to destabilise experts on every single result, challenging French mathematical models. The judges’ verdict allocated to the French claimants was as follows:

  • Between 50 and 60 % of the amount claimed was awarded for cleaning expenditures and for the financial support allocated to fishermen and fish farmers during the ban on their activity.
  • Less than 30 % of the amount claimed for roads repairing and civic works equipment replacement expenditures was awarded.
  • Less than 20 % of the amount claimed for medium and long-term economic damages in the fishing and tourist industries.
Last update on 20/02/2008
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