Date of Award


Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Jonathan Rubin

Second Committee Member

Neal R. Pettigrew

Third Committee Member

Deirdre M. Mageean


Tourism is the largest section of Maine's marine economy and could potentially suffer economic damages related to coastal oil spills. The 2003 Energy Information Administration's petroleum import data indicate that the Portland oil port is the largest in Maine and the third largest in New England with a total volume of nearly 23 million barrels (nearly 1 billion gallons).1 pursuant to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, responsible parties are liable for economic damages for "lost use" of natural resources due to an oil spill. Lack of valid and reliable pre-spill usage leads to lengthy and costly legal proceedings, and delays in restoration. This thesis is the first attempt to collect and analyze both recreational usage data and oceanographic principles in the study region. The thesis identifies 50 recreational sites across six coastal recreational activities that have the potential to be directly impacted if a spill was to occur.2 GIs is used to identify the position of and usage for these sites during each season of the year. Since a spill may impact an activity for numerous days, losses are often assessed on a daily basis using daily usage rates and values. The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) guidelines note that estimates of damages should be on a seasonal basis. Daily usage rates were calculated by dividing monthly usage by the number of days in each month (assuming all activities are open 7 days a week). Daily usage per month was then averaged according to the months in each season and ranges from 0 to 409 persons per day. On average, parks and beaches have the highest and second highest daily usage rates, respectively. The extent of economic loss to recreational sites is dependent upon daily usage rates, the value people place on the activity, the number of days impacted, and the time of year. Current non-market data for all activities are limited and often omitted from compensation because they are difficult and costly to quantify. The transport of an oil slick is contingent upon several factors including location of the spill, wind stress conditions, time of year, and mean circulation patterns. The oceanographic analysis employed in this thesis uses NOAA's GNOME trajectory model, which suggests that the summer months pose the highest impact for recreational activities due to the southerly wind stress and higher daily usage rates generated at this time of year. A discussion is included on aspects of the data that may strengthen or weaken its applicability for use in the valuation of economic losses. Based on the likelihood of a coastal oil spill in Maine and the existing gaps in usage data, it is worthwhile for the state to invest in the collection of data beyond what is documented in this thesis. The end goal is to ensure that, in the event of a spill, there is clear and known baseline data that identifies limitations.