ABSTRACT. Losses from an oil spill in 1992 differed substantially among coastal resource users on the Malaysian island of Langkawi. Even among the small-scale fishers, those generally considered to be the most vulnerable to such an event, losses varied significantly. This investigation of vulnerability examines causes for the distribution of losses, including fishers' ability to mediate their exposure to risks and the variety of coping strategies they adopted. Explanations for differences in vulnerability are found both in the everyday interactions of processes shaping vulnerability and in the ways in which the “extraordinary” circumstances of a disaster alter those everyday processes.