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$3 Million Fine for Migratory Bird Treaty Act Violations



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For immediate release:             For more information, contact:
January 9, 1998                    Christopher Dowd    (617)424-5750
                              Terri Edwards       (413)253-8327

  North Cape Owners Sentenced to Pay $3 Million to Service for
              Migratory Bird Treaty Act Violations

     Eklof Marine Corporation of New York, N.Y., was sentenced today in
U.S.  District Court in Providence to pay $3 million to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act resulting
from a 1996 oil spill off the Rhode Island coast. 

     According to Ronald Lambertson, Northeast Regional Director for the
Service, "This is one of the largest criminal fines to be imposed under
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is exceeded only by the penalty paid
following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska." 

     Eklof Marine and two affiliated companies own the tugboat Scandia and
the North Cape oil barge, which ran aground off Matunuck, R.I., on Jan.
19, 1996, spilling 828,000 gallons of home heating oil. 

     "The oil damaged wildlife habitat on the Ninigret National Wildlife
Refuge and killed hundreds of migratory birds, including loons, waterfowl,
grebes, and gulls," said Lambertson.  The Migratory Bird Treaty Act
prohibits most killing of migratory birds. 

      The companies were sentenced to pay a total of $8.5 million in fines
and payments, more than half of which will be used to finance federal
conservation programs and the purchase of land by The Nature Conservancy
in the area of the spill. 

     The $3 million will be placed in the Service's North American
Wetlands Conservation Fund. During the sentencing, Judge Mary M. Lisi
directed the Service to spend the funds to acquire, maintain, improve and
protect wetlands within the Service's Northeast Region with an emphasis on
Rhode Island. 

     The owners of the vessels, Eklof's president, and the captain of the
Scandia had previously pleaded guilty to state and federal charges,
admitting their criminal liability in causing the North Cape oil spill,
according to United States Attorney Sheldon Whitehouse. The barge ran
aground during a winter storm after crews deserted the Scandia, which was
towing the North Cape to Provincetown, when a fire broke out in the engine
room. The spill was a result of fire hazards, safety violations, and
malfunctioning equipment on the vessels. 

     Personnel from the Service and the Rhode Island Department of
Environmental Management, and volunteers, responded on the morning of the
spill when dead and injured birds began washing up on shore. Approximately
300 dead migratory birds were recovered and brought to Ninigret National
Wildlife Refuge where information was collected to be used later as
evidence. Specimens were evaluated at both the Service's National Fish and
Wildlife Forensic Laboratory in Ashland, Ore. and the U.S. Coast Guard's
Oil Identification Laboratory in Groton, Conn. Tests showed that the birds
died of petroleum contamination from oil spilled from the North Cape. 

     "The leadership of U.S. Attorney Sheldon Whitehouse was a key reason
this case reached its successful conclusion," said Lambertson. The case
was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ira Belkin and Special Assistant
U.S.  Attorney Andrew Lauterback of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

     The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal
Investigation Division, the U.S.  Coast Guard Criminal Investigative
Service, the Office of Criminal Investigation of the R.I. Department of
Environmental Management, and the Division of Law Enforcement of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service. 

                              -FWS-

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Date: Mon, 12 January 1998 15:54:00 -0600 (MDT) 
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Subject: $3 Million Fine for Migratory Bird Treaty Act Violations
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