New Bedford fishing companies, manager, and vessel captain fined for oil pollution
Two fishing companies, a manager, and a vessel captain all based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A. have agreed to pay USD 414,000 (EUR 349,000) in damages in civil penalties to resolve federal Clean Water Act claims, according to a release by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Challenge Fisheries LLC, Quinn Fisheries Inc., Charles Quinn II, and Charles Quinn III agreed to pay the fines, in addition to making fleet-wide improvements and other compliance assurance measures, in order to resolve the claims. A complaint, filed on 7 May, alleges that the their vessel Challenge, based in New Bedford, repeatedly and deliberately discharged oily bilge waste in violation of the Clean Water Act.
“Discharges of fuel and oily bilge wastes into our nation’s waters have long been prohibited and will not be condoned,” said Captain Richard J. Schultz, Commander of the Coast Guard’s Sector Southeastern New England. “These defendants will pay significant penalties and conduct fleet-wide corrective measures for their discharges of oil into New Bedford Harbor and the ocean.”
Regulations require any vessel lacking appropriate oil-water separation equipment retain all oily bilge water for the length of any planned voyages. According to the complaint, the Challenge regularly discharged oily bilge water on purpose to extend the length of its fishing voyages.
The complaint also addresses the release of “approximately 100 barrels (4,200 gallons)” of diesel fuel stemming from the sinking of the Challenge at its mooring. The sinking was caused by the captain, Quinn III, failing to turn off the bilge pumps or shut the engine room bilge valve, which resulted in water entering the engine room and fish hold.
“Today’s action sends a clear message to the commercial fishing fleet that Clean Water Act compliance must be a non-negotiable part of operations,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We appreciate our partners at the U.S. Coast Guard for their diligent investigation and referral of these violations.”
The penalty paid will be deposited into the federal oil spill liability trust fund, according to the Department of Justice. A 30-day public comment period, commencing at an as-of-yet unknown date, will also address the proposed consent decree.
Photo courtesy of USCG