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MAJURO, Marshall (November 11, 1999 – Marshall Islands Journal)---The Marshal Islands EPA recently cited a visiting tuna transshipment vessel for illegal dumping in the lagoon, but was not able to proceed to the prosecution stage for lack of witnesses.

Environmental Protection Authority general manager Jorelik Tibon said the "smell got their attention so I concluded that it must be bilge oil that they dumped."

"The ship in question was the Russian carrier Skii Veri," according to Tibon.

After receiving the report from the officials at RRE (Robert Reimers Enterprises), Tibon said he approached the Attorney General to pursue legal action. But, he said, the witnesses "all of a sudden backed off, so we had no case."

RRE official Peter Fuchs said that the problem was that they didn’t have enough hard evidence that would stand up in court to take legal action.

"We reported it (the pollution), based on what some of our staff and others at the dock told us," he said. He confirmed that RRE was the agent for the ship and said the reason they didn’t pursue action against the vessel was partly because key witnesses, not in their employ, left the island shortly after the incident.

"If EPA had laboratory tests definitely linking the vessel to the spill, we would have gone to court," he added.

"The ship, however, did receive a notice and warning from EPA that it was in violation of pollution," Tibon said.

The EPA general manager said he had hoped the government could take stronger action against the ship "to send a message to all the vessels."

Tibon said that EPA depends on the public to help it with policing the fishing fleet. He added on several occasions in the past couple of months, EPA staff have gone out late at night in a boat to check on the fleet parked in the lagoon, but didn’t see any suspicious activity while they were out.

Tibon said that the EPA expected to get testing equipment on island that will allow it to compare samples of pollution taken from the lagoon with bilge oil from individual ships to determine who is actually polluting the lagoon.

"Now, we don’t have the capability," he said.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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