In an unusual and sweeping lawsuit, Pacific fishermen are taking the fossil fuel industry to court.
In a suit filed on November 14th, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), a large coalition of fishermen on the west coast, seeks damages from 30 different fossil fuel corporations. ThinkProgress reports on the cause: climate change, resulting from the sale and use of fossil fuels, have severely damaged the livelihoods and communities of fishermen.
That climate change is linked to problems for those making a living from the sea is not a new or even a controversial statement; warmer water can create better environments for bacteria and algal blooms which choke out the existing ecosystems; can increase the acid level of water, causing deaths of vital cogs in the chain like coral. The PCFFA is specifically concerned in this case with crab fishing in the Pacific, for species like the prized dungeness crab.
Algal blooms in the Pacific have caused high levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin, to build up in crabs. Domoic acid is dangerous, and those high levels have caused various state governments to shorten the dungeness crab season to only the coldest parts of the year. For fishermen, and the communities that depend on the crabs, this has been disastrous. The crab industry in Washington, Oregon, and California brings in hundreds of millions of dollars a year; to drastically shorten the season has and will have significant detrimental effects on the economies of the Pacific coast.
The lawsuit alleges that the 30 named fossil fuel corporations—including Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, BP, and Citgo, among others—knew the effects their products have on climate change, and not only did not work to curb carbon emissions, but worked to “discredit the growing body of publicly available scientific evidence” on the connection, according to a PCFFA quote given to ThinkProgress.
The PCFFA did not list a specific dollar amount in terms of damages sought but did make their position clear: that these companies must be held responsible for their actions, and the damage meted out to industries like this one.