[Coral-List] Company pay fine in Marshall Islands for Coral Damage from Vessel Grounding

Andrew Finlay finlayrao at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Mar 6 06:45:16 EST 2009

Hi John

Thanks for the email and comment. I totally understand the reasons for your email and dismay at the pathetic fine that was sentenced. The RMIEPA too was a little disappointed at the small fine. However it IS a victory for the RMI as up until this moment the Government had never even attempted to prosecute any of the 100s of violations that had been issued. As many will know, there is an enormous gap in the level of enforcement and regulation between independent small tropical atoll nations and the likes of say USA or Australia, mainly due to political will, corruption, lack of awareness and technical and financial resources. So the fact that this even went to court and a conviction was achieved is a big moment in RMI history. Anyone who works in developing nations with these constraints will know this. $25,000 may not be much money in USA but it is a significant sum in the Marshall Islands. Ontop of this, the company that were convicted are extremely
 powerful and have a hand in many pies. i.e the son of the CEO of the convicted company is the Minister for Justice and runs the courts. The company also managed to remove key members of the prosecution during the trial. It was a tough fight to even get the case off the ground. It is sad that a small fine was levied but the RMIEPA did not have any technical expertise or finances to provide true coral expert witness in RMI, i.e experts like NOAA. Perhaps in the future thought could be given to a 'pool of experts' who could come and assist on these cases in court. RMI doesn't have such luxury.

In the meantime, PII cannot break the environmental laws for the next five years or they will face a large fine , this is a huge step forward in the RMI EPAs shoes. 


R. Andrew O. Finlay
United Kingdom Mob: +44 7982194897  Australia Mob: +61 420421292
Skype: fin_international

--- On Thu, 5/3/09, John Ware <jware at erols.com> wrote:
From: John Ware <jware at erols.com>
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Company pay fine in Marshall Islands for Coral Damage from Vessel Grounding
To: finlayrao at yahoo.co.uk
Cc: "Coral List" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Date: Thursday, 5 March, 2009, 6:31 PM

Hello Andrew and the Coral List,

Well, I kept waiting for the 'other shoe to drop' by someone other than
me.  But it didn't happen, so here is my input.

The awarding of the $3000 is presented as if it is something of an
accomplishment.  But $3000 after two years seems hardly worth it.  In fact, the
original $25,000 doesn't sound like much to me.

If the cause for the optimism that seems to be part of Andrew's e-mail is
that some sort of precedent has been set, then I would argue that the only
precedent is that you can do damage to a reef, let the government EPA fight for
a couple of years, and then get off with about 10% of the actual original suit

I fail to see this as any sort of victory, but maybe I am missing something...

John Ware
SeaServices, Inc.

Andrew Finlay wrote:

> Dear Listers
> After a two year battle, the Republic of the Marshall Island's
Environmental Protection Authority (RMIEPA) has won its High Court Case in the
Marshall Islands, with Pacific International Inc (PII) being convicted on three
counts: coral damage, fishery habitat destruction and marine pollution. This was
for the grounding of their vessel the MV Emerald on the lagoon coral reefs of
Enemanet Island, Majuro Atoll in early 2007.
> Last week, the Judge fined PII US$25,000, with $22,000 suspended provided
that PII do not violate the environmental laws within the next five years. 
> Would like to thank John Starmer, in CNMI and Tom Moore of NOAA for
invaluable information on coral reef restoration economics and also Christopher
Hale for legal information.
> The trial did not pass without casualties. During the trial, the
Government's prosecuting attorney, the former Attorney General, was forced
to resign in early 2008 when the CEO of Pacific International Inc', son
became his boss, the Minister of Justice. My contract as the EPA Advisor was
then terminated later in 2008 without reason after testifying as the expert
witness, when a new EPA Board was illegally appointed and chaired by a senior
PII employee. Later the President overturned the corrupt Board and rescinded all
its decisions including the termination.
> It certainly make an interesting case study, but more to the point sets a
great precedent for the future enforcement of environmental laws and protection
of coral reefs in the Marshall Islands.
> Article from the Marshall Islands Journal below (if you want a jpeg or pdf
of the article please feel free to email me)
> Kind regards Andrew Finlay
> Former RMIEPA Advisor
> PII pays $3,000 fine in Enemanet pollution case
> End to ongoing EPA issue
> After a lengthy trial and hearing process, the High Court sentenced
Pacific International Inc. Thursday to pay $3,000 while suspending the balance
of a $25,000 fine for a 2007 pollution incident at Enemanet Island on Majuro’s
north shore. Chief Justice Carl Ingram found PII guilty of three counts of
marine pollution last August following a trial, but followed up with additional
hearings in December to gather more evidence concerning coral damage and
mitigation and clean up efforts. Ingram pointed out that the marine protection
laws do not require that the pollution was caused intentionally or by
negligence. “It is enough that the discharge, contamination and pollution
occurred,” he said in Thursday’s sentencing decision. In delivering the
sentence, Ingram said he took into consideration all the evidence, efforts by
PII to clean and restore the lagoon area by Enemanet, the lack of evidence that
PII intentionally caused the problem, and the laws that allowed for a maximum
fine of $500,000 for the incident. He ordered PII to pay $25,000 and reimburse
the RMI government for the $695 cost for engaging diver Matt Holly to produce a
report on the underwater area at Enemanet. But Ingram suspended $22,000 provided
that PII paid $3,000 fine and $695 reimbursement by March 1 and does not
intentionally or through gross negligence violate marine pollution laws for the
next five years. PII paid the fine on Tuesday this week.
> _______________________________
> R. Andrew O. Finlay
> United Kingdom Mob: +44 7982194897
> Australia Mob: +61 420421292
> Skype: fin_international
>      _______________________________________________
> Coral-List mailing list
> Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list

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