NFI: Pay Up for Valdez Spill, Exxon


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
February 23, 2008

Exxon should pay the damages it owes as a result of the Valdez oil spill in 1989, says the National Fisheries Institute of McLean, Va.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court will hear arguments surrounding the $2.5 billion dollar punitive damage verdict against Exxon.

"Alaska's fishing industry and the broader seafood communities were impacted by the devastating effects of the spill nearly two decades ago," said NFI president John Connelly in a prepared statement. "From Alaska's iconic salmon to herring populations, everything in Prince William Sound was affected. It caused serious damage to the environment and the fishing economy. We're confident the Supreme Court will see the need for punitive damages in this unique case."

NFI filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, which highlights Exxon's "reprehensible conduct" and explains how maritime businesses were forced into bankruptcy or financial straits in the wake of the spill.

The oil giant is asking the court to strike down the award altogether. Exxon is questioning whether the award is within the limits permitted by federal maritime law and whether a ship owner should have to pay punitive damages at all for the conduct of a ship's captain.

"We're talking about roughly the equivalent of 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of oil spilled over a region that contains 9,000 miles of shoreline, in an area where many hardworking people make their living from fishing.

"This was a spill of immense proportion and impact," Connelly said. "The punishment should be equivalent. Punitive damages will help ensure Exxon takes the necessary steps to avoid this type of disaster in the future and will send a message to others that recklessness of this kind will not be tolerated."

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