Fishermen demand compensation for oil spill

By Lu Na
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 28, 2011
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Fishermen affected by ConocoPhillips' oil spill in China's Bohai Bay said that State Oceanic Administration should require the oil giant and China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) to build a compensation fund with no less than 3 billion yuan ($472 million).

Fishermen have nowhere to turn to for help as the the ConocoPhilips compensation fund is so far no more than empty promises. [File photo]

Fishermen of Laoyujian Village in Laoting County, Hebei Province have recently made formal request for administrative reconsideration from SOA and Ministry of Agriculture.

After the initial detection of the spill on June 4, ConocoPhillips and CNOOC have promised to set up funds to compensate for damages caused. Almost five months later, the companies have still not released any further details regarding the funds. The SOA has also failed to publish any official report on the amount of damages, leaving the fishermen nowhere to turn to for help.

Laoting County's fish cultivation covers an area of 4000 mu (267 hectares). According to locals, a large amount of shrimp, fish, shellfish and sea cucumber had died in June, with the situation worsening in July and August. The fishermen said 60 percent of the sea cucumber so far had died and the damages have reached hundreds of millions of yuan.

Requests for the MOA to investigate damages to the cultivated sea cumbers by the oil spill and for help to cope with the losses have been met with silence, and the fishermen are now accusing the agricultural authority of administrative nonfeasance.

In their application for administrative reconsideration, fishermen requested for the agricultural ministry to organize further investigation and produce a written report on whether the cultivation area has been polluted by the oil spill from Penglai 19-3 oil field.

Dong Liangjie and Zhao Zhangyuan, environmental researchers at Hawaii University and Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Science, respectively, have analyzed the amount of oil that have so far spilled into Bohai Bay, which they said have exceeded 7,000 tons.

Fishermen also said that the agricultural ministry should organize research institutions assess the damages the local fishing industry have suffered and provide support to seek compensation from the oil companies.

The administrative reconsideration application also requests investigative efforts from SOA and that the agency fulfills the legal responsibility of marine environment supervision and administration.

Fisherman said that SOA should carry out administrative guidance for ConocoPhillips and CNOOC by arranging talks, making announcements and – if necessary – having state council leaders intervene. They also demanded that the agency require the oil companies to complete works in establishing and injecting capital into the compensation fund, confirm management personnel and publish rules of compensation in one month. The fishermen said the fund can contain no less than 3 billion yuan ($472 million).

"The two ministries have to accept the administrative reconsideration applications. If not, they can be sued for administrative nonfeasance," Xia Jun, commissioner of All China Lawyers Association Environmental and Energy Committee, told Securities Daily.

ConocoPhillips said on Sept. 7 it would establish a "Bohai Bay Fund" to compensate for damages caused by the oil spill. CNOOC said that it was also willing to contribute to the fund as soon as possible. However, no details such as a timeline or the amount of compensation were provided, and experts suspected that the announcement was a half-measure to ease tension.

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