wave.jpgMore than three years after the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill fouled the waters of the San Francisco Bay and beyond, local fishermen will receive a total of $6 million in damages through a class action lawsuit.

The container ship spilled roughly 58,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay on Nov. 7, 2007, after it struck a fender around one of the Bay Bridge’s towers and cut a 212-foot gash in the ship’s hull.

Wildlife was severely impacted by the spill, with the oil reaching shores as far north as Stinson Beach in Marin County and as far south as Pacifica in San Mateo County.

Local fishermen filed a series of class action suits against the owners and operators of the container ship in both federal court in San Francisco and in San Francisco Superior Court. Lawsuits were brought against both Fleet Management and the ship’s owner, Regal Stone Ltd. of Hong Kong.

Both lawsuits claimed fishermen suffered “profound” economic damage from the oil contamination and sought certification as class actions on behalf of all commercial operations that catch fish in and near San Francisco Bay.

A settlement was recently reached to pay Bay Area commercial herring, halibut, and other finfish fishermen $3.65 million for long-term damages claims in addition to monies previously recovered, according to an attorney for the fishermen.

About 120 commercial finfish fishermen will split the $3.65 million settlement, with preliminary approval of the settlement scheduled for Jan. 25.

“If you come into the Bay and spill oil, the chief stewards of the Bay – local commercial fishermen – will do everything in their power to hold you accountable for it,” Stuart Gross, an attorney representing the fishermen, said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Gross also acknowledged that Fleet and Regal took responsibility for their actions, but that the settlement is compensation to the fishermen for the spill-related uncertainty that remains regarding the health of local fisheries.

“Ultimately, Fleet and Regal did what was right, they acknowledged that, while signs are good that the spill will not have the devastating effect on local fisheries that many feared, there is still some uncertainty,” Gross said.

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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