Watch CBS News

Crab Fishermen File Lawsuit Against Fossil Fuel Companies

HALF MOON BAY (CBS SF) -- Deep-seated anger lingering from the loss of millions of dollars during the 2015 crab fishing season, has sparked a lawsuit filed against 30 fossil fuel companies by Bay Area fishermen.

The powerful Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations claims the companies environment practices led to the appearance of a massive to massive algae blooms caused by warm ocean temperatures and the resulting domoic acid outbreak that delayed the fishing season.

"The scientific linkage between the combustion of fossil fuels and ocean warming, which leads to domoic acid impacts in our fisheries, is clear," Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We know it, and it's time to hold that industry accountable for the damage they've caused."

The PCFFA filed the suit in California State Superior Court in San Francisco on Wednesday.

"It was rough," Half Moon Bay fisherman Marc Alley told KPIX 5 of the 2015 season. "You could see it coming, you just didn't know how big it was going to get. And you don't really know the concentration of it."

The domoic acid outbreak kept Alley's boat tied up at the dock for the entire 2015 season. Others, Oppenheim told KPIX 5, simply folded their operations.

"Some fishermen had to sell out," he said. "They had to lose their entire livelihood."

In its suit, the PCFFA said the 30 fossil fuel companies have contributed to ocean warming that gave life to the blooms in 2015 and part of 2017.

"They knowingly sold this product for decades while understanding full well that there would be literally a catastrophe -- that's their words -- their scientists knew it and we're dealing with it now," Oppenheim said.

The filing came a day before the commercial crab season was set to begin off much of the Northern California coast. The fishermen fear there may be future forced shutdowns in the years ahead.

"It's not a matter of if, but when for us," Oppenheim said.

Luckily, fisherman say, the ocean waters off the coast were cold enough to keep the algae growth in check this year.

In an email to the Chronicle, Exxon Mobil said the lawsuit would have little impact of slowly global warming.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions," said Scott J. Silvestri, corporate media relations manager of Exxon Mobil Corp., in the email. "Lawsuits like this — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.