Payments help crab fisherman avoid a 'bleak' holiday

A compensation agreement announced today for Bay Area crab fishermen who suffered financial losses due to the Nov. 7 oil spill in San Francisco Bay will help stave off an otherwise “bleak” holiday season, the president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association said today.

Two San Francisco-based law firms this morning announced an agreement with the owners of the Cosco Busan to release about $700,000 to crab fishermen whose livelihoods were thrown into disarray when the 58,000-gallon fuel spill disrupted the beginning of the crab fishing season.

The relief agreement is preliminary, and will disburse $5,000 to $10,000 in insurance funds to each of the approximately 70 crab fishermen in San Francisco, Half Moon Bay and Bodega Bay represented by Hanson Bridgett and McGuinn, Hillsman and Palefsky, according to attorney Michael Duncheon.

Duncheon spoke at Fisherman's Wharf this morning, where Dungeness crab sales have just begun over the pastfew days.

Duncheon characterized the current agreement as “merely down-payments much needed by the fishermen.”

Further claims are still being negotiated and his firm has still not ruled out filing a lawsuit, Duncheon said.

“So far, we're getting substantial success through the administrative process,” Duncheon said.

Said Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Association, “There was a lot of people hurt by this spill.” Collins said the crab fisherman were just preparing for the Nov. 15 start of the season, when the spill occurred.

“We were all set, the boats loaded,” Collins said, adding that before the crab season starts, most fishermen have already emptied their bank accounts.

“Everything's on the line,” Collins said.

When the spill forced the boats to stay docked, “Christmas was looking pretty bleak,” Collins said.

“Now this is going to let us have a holiday season that we didn't think we were going to have,” he added.

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