Whistleblowers are the key to preventing illegal oil and waste pollution in our oceans. Of the thousands of ships at sea every day, up to 15% will knowingly pollute by ignoring and bypassing regulations. Far away from official oversight and in international waters, the only people who can prevent this from happening are the courageous whistleblowers who report this behavior. One of the most important and effective tools to uncover and prevent marine pollution is the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). Implementing MARPOL, an international treaty developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), APPS makes it a crime for any person to knowingly violate MARPOL, APPS, or regulations promulgated under APPS.
APPS applies to all U.S.-flagged vessels and to all vessels, including foreign-flagged vessels, at port under U.S. jurisdiction or operating in the navigable waters of the United States. Violations of APPS include discharges above the permitted level of oil and oily water; noxious liquid substances; garbage; and emissions of certain air pollutants. Other requirements of APPS involve keeping an accurate Oil Record Book, complying with requests to investigate whether the ship discharged a harmful substance in violation of MARPOL, a ban on disposing certain pollutants in “special areas” or within a certain distance from land, and a strict prohibition on the disposal of any plastics into the ocean. The U.S. Department of Justice has repeatedly emphasized both the importance of vigorously prosecuting marine polluters and the importance of whistleblowers in obtaining evidence of marine pollution.
Those who are brave enough to draw attention to violations of APPS or MARPOL – whether a U.S. citizen or a foreign national – can be compensated with up to 50% of the monetary penalties that the United States Government receives from the guilty parties.
Below are some cases in which whistleblowers have been rewarded for their courage and their aid in preventing ocean pollution. In many of these cases, the fines and penalties disclosed have been used to serve the public interest and fund environmental groups and organizations.
Marine pollution threatens the health of our oceans and our ability to protect fish and wildlife. If you have information related to marine pollution, please report now.