Investigation and Monetary Values of Fish and Freshwater Mollusk Kills

Chapter 4: Costs and Economic Valuation of Fish Kills


The economic guidelines described in this book are based on the concept that the total monetary damage from fish kills is made up of four primary components: replacement costs, biological interim loss value, use value, and nonuse value. The true costs associated with a fish or mussel kill cannot be fully accounted for using replacement cost methods alone. Use and nonuse values should be included as part of monetary damages whenever they can be reliably quantified.

When available, any cost data from hatcheries local to the fish kill site should be used in preference to the general economic data provided in this book. The methodologies described here will remain applicable.

Replacement cost data should not be used for species that are currently listed as threatened, endangered, or otherwise protected at the federal level where specific civil or criminal penalties may apply. To ensure that full compensatory damages and restoration activities are realized, federal and state agencies should consult with each other regarding kills involving federally protected species. In addition to federal claims, many states have threatened and endangered lists and related civil and criminal penalties that may take precedence over the guidelines presented in this document. In some instances, states may be able to claim restitution damages in addition to any federal claims. After some kill events, it may not be possible to restore the site, due to irreparable habitat damage. In these instances, authorities may defer to federal fish kill guidelines.

Government entities frequently seek monetary damages after a die-off of fish due to pollution or other human activities. This chapter assists in calculating those damages. These guidelines are recommendations only and are not intended to supersede any other existing state, provincial, or federal methods for estimating damages after a fish kill. Fisheries vary from one location to another, even within one state or province. Therefore, fishery managers should use their professional judgment and expertise to conduct specific studies, when needed, and to adjust the replacement costs listed in this book, when appropriate, to reflect local fishery conditions and losses.