July 16, 2019 2:25 pm
Updated: July 16, 2019 5:54 pm

U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nations territory

The Nathan E. Stewart is seen surrounded by booms after sinking near Bella Bella.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canadian Coast Guard
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BELLA BELLA, B.C. – The company responsible for a fuel spill that contaminated the fishing territory of a First Nation on British Columbia’s central coast has been fined $2.9 million but the Heiltsuk Nation says the sentence is “a long way from justice.”

READ MORE: A man fell asleep at the wheel, and helped cause a massive fuel spill on B.C.’s coast


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A tug boat owned by Texas-based Kirby Corp. ran aground and sank, spilling 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016. Kirby pleaded guilty in May to separate counts under the Fisheries Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Pilotage Act for the spill that damaged both fish and birds, and for failing to have a pilot aboard the vessel.

READ MORE: Nathan E. Stewart spill report recommends alleviating risk of fatigue in marine industry

Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Nation says the company should be banned from its territorial waters until there is proper restitution in accordance with the nation’s traditional laws. Slett, members of the community and representatives for Kirby participated in a sentencing circle during provincial court proceedings held in a gym in Bella Bella before Judge Brent Hoy announced the sentence.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nation slams response to tug sinking

Kirby spokesman Paul Welsh says the company sincerely regrets the spill and has amended its operating procedures, training and equipment to help reduce the potential for future accidents.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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