[Coral-List] Rep. of the Marshall Islands EPA win court case for coral reef damage

Andrew Finlay finlayrao at yahoo.co.uk
Sat Aug 9 12:16:35 EDT 2008

Dear List

In May 2007, I made a request for some assistance in establishing an appropriate fine for a coral reef damage incident caused by a purposeful vessel grounding in Majuro Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). Thank you to those who assisted myself and Dean Jacobsen last year.

The defendant refused to pay the minimal $5000 fine imposed by the RMI Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) so the EPA decided to take them to Court.

After a long slog, Pacific International Inc (PII), were earlier this week found guilty in the RMI High Court on three counts:  coral reef damage, pollution of the marine water quality and damage to a local fishery. The photographic evidence collected and testimonies given were enough to get the result.

This is a
 landmark case, the first of its kind in RMI, as no other company in the Marshall Islands
 have ever been successfully convicted of coral reef damage and this is one of the first EPA cases in RMI. The other EPA win this year was for illegal commercial beach mining.

I am concerned that when sentencing
 occurs in a few weeks, the Judge may simply pluck a fine value out of the sky, roughly between $1000-5000. The EPA initially fined PII $5000 back in May 2007 but having researched some literature on previous cases it appears that the fine should be much more?

We lack the resources and expertise to restore this habitat so any mitigation work is unlikely to happen (transplanting etc.) and so I'm not totally keen to recommend a fine based on restoration. However I have read a little on Habitat Equivalency Analysis being used in court cases in the US for Natural Resource Damage Assessments but I have no examples or knowledge on how to use it. 

I ask for your kind assistance again, in providing any papers or documents on previous coral reef damage cases to help us recommend a fine that can be backed up by evidence of similar cases elsewhere in the World.

Also anyone who is willing to assist with helping the RMIEPA establish a figure for
 the fine based
 on HEA or other standard valuation techniques please get in touch (sorry it would have to be in kind assistance).

The area of reef destroyed was approximately 70m2 along with pollution of the water (diesel - 2 mile plume for several days) and destruction of a fishery habitat including that of coral colony home to the Three Banded Anenomefish (Amphiprion tricinctus) only found in the Marshall Islands. Many Porites colonies were shattered and Porites boulder corals over turned. The reef is a lagoon reef on the outer northern islands of Majuro Atoll, off Enemanit Island, the most popular destination for tourists and a top sight in Majuro for snorkeling. I can provide pictures if required.I was also wondering, if any 'multiplyer' effect may be in order considering the importance of reefs in low lying atoll nations like the Marshalls in their protection against sea level rise? 

Thank you for
 any assistance

________________________________________       R. Andrew O. Finlay 
  Environmental Advisor  Environmental Protection Authority  Republic of the Marshall Islands  P.O.Box 1322, Majuro,   Marshall Islands
 96960.     Tel: +692 625 3035/5203  Fax: +692 625 5202  Mob: +692 455 1471

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