SHANGHAI (AP) — A group of more than 100 Chinese fishermen filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking compensation from ConocoPhillips China, blaming oil spills from some of its offshore wells for damage to their sea cucumber catches.
The fishermen are seeking 490 million yuan ($78 million) from the energy giant, which operates offshore wells in China's northeastern Bohai Bay along with state-run CNOOC, said their lawyer, Zhang Jingwei of the Beijing Yingke Law Firm.
It is unclear if the Tianjin Maritime Court, in the northeastern city of Tianjin, will accept the case, though Zhang said he expected it would.
"The fishermen believe their sea cucumbers were killed by the oil spill and the company must pay compensation for their losses," Zhang said. "I think the conditions for acceptance of the case have been all met. We hope to see some positive response from ConocoPhilips China about the compensation," he said.
A spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips China said the company had not been notified about the lawsuit and thus could not comment on it.
In September ConocoPhillips announced plans to set up two funds to pay compensation and address environmental problems resulting from the spills.
The government has already ordered the company to stop all production pending a full cleanup and review to ensure no more oil seeps into the sea.
The oil spill covered about 2,500 square miles (6,200 sq. kilometers) of water surface. It drew attention to pollution in the Bohai region due to industrialization, oil drilling and fast population growth that has decimated sea food and fish stocks and caused frequent red tides.
Sea cucumbers, one of many types of sea product harvested in the Bohai, are sausage-shaped, often spiky marine animals that are viewed as a delicacy by many in Asia.