A U.S. District Court judge has ordered an American tuna fishing company to pay a $1.6 million fine after it was convicted Thursday for illegally discharging oil in to the South Pacific and maintaining false records.
Pacific Breeze Fisheries LLC owned the Fishing Vessel F/V Pacific Breeze, a tuna purse seiner responsible for the illegal oil discharges.
The company pleaded guilty before Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to four felony violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, failure to accurately maintain an oil record book and for illegal discharging oily bilge water into the South Pacific, according to a news release by the Coast Guard.
Under a plea agreement, the company will pay the fine and a $400,000 community service payment for use in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. The company currently doesn’t manage any fishing vessels.
Pacific Breeze Fisheries admitted its engineers failed to document illegal dumping of oily bilge water into waters of American Samoa without the use of pollution prevention equipment. The discharges occurred on at least two occasions in 2014 and 2015 before unloading its catch to a cannery at a port in Pago Pago.
The Coast Guard said the company also confessed that senior engineers regularly failed to accurately record the transfer and disposal of oil waste in the vessel’s record book. Tons of oil sludge, waste oil and oily bilge water produced by the vessel remain unaccounted for.
The Coast Guard relies on oil record books to determine whether vessels are illegally dumping oil at sea.
Jeon Seon Han, former F/V Pacific Breeze chief engineer, pleaded guilty Tuesday at Honolulu federal court for his role in obstructing a vessel inspection in American Samoa in 2015.
Han admitted lying to Coast Guard inspectors about the sludge disposal and to ordering the disassembly of an illegal discharge system before the inspection.
His sentencing is scheduled for February 2017.