Coast Guard Air Crew Spots Fishing Vessel Pumping Oil Overboard

JUNEAU, Alaska – Discharging oil into the ocean is a violation of federal law, but that doesn’t stop some people from polluting when they think no one is looking. As one fisherman recently discovered, the Coast Guard can spot pollution violations from the air, even in remote areas of Southeast Alaska.

The crew of an HH-60 helicopter from Air Station Sitka was on a routine training flight on April 8, 2008 when they noticed an oily sheen trailing from a fishing vessel underway in the Gulf of Esquibel near Prince of Wales Island. The air crew radioed the fishing vessel operator, who admitted to pumping oily bilge water overboard. The air crew relayed the information to Marine Safety Detachment Ketchikan personnel, who initiated a pollution investigation. The investigation, which is still on-going, will likely result in a fine.

Fines for oil pollution can range from $50 to $10,000 per offense, depending on the amount spilled, the perpetrator’s prior history of violations, whether the perpetrator is a commercial or non-commercial entity, and whether or not the spill was deliberate.

Anyone who notices oil pollution in a navigable waterway should call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802

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