A 2021 fire onboard a commercial seafood processor led to a hydraulic oil spill in Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, and has now netted Trident Seafoods Corporation, the vessel’s owner, a $25,000 fine from the Washington Department of Ecology.
In February 2021, the fish processor Aleutian Falcon caught fire while docked for maintenance. Repair work ignited a wooden bulkhead and other materials. As the fire spread, a crane’s hydraulic hoses were damaged, causing an estimated 20-30 gallons of hydraulic oil, mixed with firefighting water, to spill to the Hylebos Waterway.
The spill was contained by a boom surrounding the vessel. Other hazardous material and potential pollutants on the vessel were either consumed in the blaze, or successfully removed. No one was on board the Aleutian Falcon at the time of the fire, and there were no reported injuries.
Investigators found the scope of the repair work was not adequately communicated between workers, supervisors, and officials ahead of time. While working, crews did not take proper precautions or follow national standards that would have prevented the fire. Also, Trident did not report the vessel emergency within an hour of the onset of the fire, as required under law and the company’s spill contingency plan.
The company is being penalized for spilling oil to water, negligence, and not properly reporting a vessel emergency.
While there were no reported impacts to wildlife, oil and refined oil products are acutely toxic. Even small amounts of oil can severely injure or impair mammals, fish, birds, and other animals. Oil can also adversely affect the habitats that wildlife depends on for survival.
The penalty may be appealed to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days. Spill penalty proceeds support grants issued by Ecology to public agencies and non-profit organizations for environmental restoration projects.