Xiamen Maritime Court recently concluded China’s first case related to a dispute over damage to the marine environment, brought by the Coast Guard.
The defendant, a shipping company based in Wuhu, Anhui Province, was ordered to pay more than 1.28 million yuan ($196,871) toward environmental restoration costs due to the illegal dumping of waste during dredging, which seriously endangered the ecosystem in an area inhabited by 12 rare species, including the Chinese white dolphin — which is under first-class national protection.
In July 2021, law enforcement officers of Xiamen Coast Guard Bureau conducted inspections and found that a dredging vessel operated by the shipping company violated the provisions of the “License for Marine Dumping of Waste”. The dredged waste was dumped in the sea near Liuwudian, in Xiamen’s Xiang’an District, with the dumping area covering 115,275 square meters.
According to Cai Libo, director of Xiamen Chinese White Dolphin & Amphioxus Nature Reserve Affairs Center, after nearly 20 years of effort, about 60 or 70 Chinese white dolphins live in the waters where the dumping occurred, along with around 40 amphioxi per square meter, which have second class national protected status. There are around 10 species of coastal birds such as yellow-billed egrets, rock herons, and egrets in the reserve, with a population of more than 30,000.
In August 2021, Xiamen Coast Guard Bureau issued a warning and 200,000 yuan fine in response. However, to properly restore the area of 115,275 square meters, a fine of 200,000 yuan is far from enough.
In November 2021, based on Article 89 of China’s “Marine Environmental Protection Law”, the Xiamen Coast Guard Bureau filed a public interest lawsuit on behalf of the state with Xiamen Maritime Court, for compensation for damage to the environment.
More than a month passed from the filing of the case to the conclusion of the trial. Based on the investigation, the court urged the plaintiff and the defendant to voluntarily reach an agreement that the defendant would pay compensation of over 1.28 million yuan for environmental restoration work proposed by experts from an evaluation agency.