California Fishermen Sue Oil Companies Over Climate Change

Fishing crews tend to be particularly sensitive to climate change because they work so closely with the natural world. That makesfishermen bellwethers for everyone to heed, but it can also turn them into environmental activists.

And that’s certainly the case with a collective of fishermen in California that’s suing oil companies,claimingtheir role in climate change is causing material harm to the fisheries they count on to make a living.

This isn’t the first time people have used the courts in an attempt to hold oil companies responsible for their contributions to our changing climate. It’s an ongoing process — and a particularly vital one, as the Trump administration just released a damning climate report both explicitly stating that climate change is real and warning of dire consequences if we don’t take action.

The fishermen say that oil companies knew about climate change and were aware that their practices were exacerbating it, so they should be taking financial and social responsibility for it.

For the first time, however, it’s a private industry group — a trade association — filing suit. This is a big deal, showing that climate change is an issue not just for environmental activists, the general public, state and local governments, and future generations. It’s also a problem for industries that are suffering right now.

And if this case is successful, it could open the door to other litigation. For example, farmers are also experiencing significant problems associated with high temperatures and reduced rainfall, or the opposite, depending on where they’re located.

The suit brings up several issues, but it focuses heavily on “the blob,” which is a cheerfully affectionate name for a very serious problem. A once-rare ocean warming pattern is now becoming cyclical, heating the Pacific to 4.5 degrees warmer than normal averages. The blob doesn’t just cause problems for fisheries, incidentally: It also disrupts weather patterns on land.

In the ocean, though, the blobcausesalgal blooms, which are increasing along with climate change. Some algae are harmful, and may necessitate temporary closures or delayed openings for public health and safety. California crab lovers may be feeling the pain on this one personally, as crab seasons have been severely disrupted by algal blooms over the last several years. The state tends to close fisheries entirely if there’s any doubt about safety.

For fishing crews, this is obviously a huge problem, but it causes a ripple effect. In fishing communities, when the fleet isn’t sailing, associated industries aren’t making money either — whether they’re canneries, trucking companies, lodging facilities that accommodate crew who travel to the area for the season, restaurants serving people when they’re in port or other businesses. Uncertainties in the fishing industry can be very problematic for small communities that lack alternatives for financial sustainability.

Fishermen want to be compensated for lost income; for seasonal fisheries, missing even a few days, let alone weeks, can be devastating. They also want to see oil companies investing in mitigation measures and technologies to help them continue to do business on a warming climate. For example, detoxification tanks could create a clearinghouse for infected crustaceans, while field testing kits could allow boats to quickly ascertain the safety of a catch.

Those concerned about climate change should follow this case, whether or not they’re crab consumers. It could play an important role in our evolving approach to climate change as we attempt to compel oil companies to own up to their misdeeds.

Photo credit: Travis Wise/Creative Commons

33 comments

Celine R
Celine Russo6 days ago

The kind of news that should be heard on tv and radio but nope never heard it there -_-'

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Frances Bell
Frances Bell8 days ago

People aren't the only ones feeling the pain of ocean warming. What every single marine creature that relies on a healthy and abundant ocean?

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Paula A
Paula A8 days ago

Thank you.

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee9 days ago

Thank you.

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Ruth S
Ruth S9 days ago

How are they going to prove that???

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Ruth S
Ruth S9 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S9 days ago

Thanks.

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Chad Anderson
Chad A10 days ago

Thank you.

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Anne Moran
Anne M10 days ago

Huh ??

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Glennis W
Glennis W10 days ago

Awesome . Thank you for caring and sharing

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