Fishing Vessel Owner Convicted of Discharging Oily Waste Into the Coastal Waters of the United States Off Washington State
Bingham Fox, owner of the fishing vessel Native Sun, was convicted today in U.S. District Court in Seattle of discharging oily waste directly into coastal waters of the State of Washington, a felony violation of the Clean Water Act. The jury deliberated six hours following a five-day trial. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik scheduled sentencing for July 11, 2017.
According to court documents, Bingham Fox, and others associated with the Native Sun, repeatedly discharged oily wastes into the ocean using unapproved submersible pumps and hoses. According to evidence presented at trial, the Native Sun had multiple, long-term, mechanical problems that put substantial amounts of oil in its bilges. In addition, the vessel was leaky, so the bilges were constantly filling with a mixture of oil and seawater. Bingham Fox had at least one illegal pump installed on board and directed others to regularly dump oily waste from the bilges, even in port.
“This criminal conviction clearly shows that treating our oceans as a dump has serious consequences,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD). “Law-abiding vessel operators know the importance of compliance with our nation’s environmental laws, but those that flout those laws will face justice.”
“This case highlights the great collaborative efforts of Sector Puget Sound, Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Department of Justice, in holding those who pollute our waters accountable,” said Captain Linda A. Sturgis, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound. “The results announced today are a prime example of the importance of the Coast Guard's marine environmental protection mission.”
Bingham Fox faces up to five years in prison and a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for this conviction. On March 17, 2017, his son Randall Fox pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to discharge oily wastes into the ocean when the Native Sun was offshore. Those acts violated the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), which specifically prohibits the discharge of machinery space bilge water, unless it has been properly treated, and meets rigorous oil pollution standards. APPS implements America’s obligations under an international treaty to control pollution by ocean-going vessels. On at least one occasion, a discharge under Randall Fox’s command left a large oily sheen in the wake of the Native Sun, which was video recorded by a crewmember, who reported the crime to authorities. Randall Fox faces a maximum of six years in prison for the APPS count and five years in prison for the conspiracy count. He also faces a criminal fine of up to $250,000 for each count. His sentencing is scheduled for June 16, 2017.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The case is being prosecuted by trial attorneys Todd W. Gleason and Stephen Da Ponte of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section.