Source: Xinhua | 2011-7-27 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
Yang Jizhen, head of the Loating Aquaculture Association, shows oil washed up on the beach in Laoting County in northn China's Hebei Province.
CHINESE fishermen in northern China's Hebei Province believe oil particles from a huge spill off the east coast caused a massive loss of this season's farmed scallop.
More than 160 groups of scallop-raisers have told the agricultural bureau in Laoting County that over half the scallop cultivated in a shore area of 23 hectares died after oil particles were found along a 25km stretch of beach.
Fishermen claimed the contamination was the result of oil spills at the Penglai 19-3 field in Bohai Bay jointly operated by Houston-based ConocoPhillips' China subsidiary and its Chinese partner, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC).
China's oceanic authorities ordered the field to halt production on July 13, and revealed the spills had occurred as early as the first half of June.
The State Oceanic Administration concluded this week that oil particles from the Bohai Bay spills have spread to beaches in Jingtang Port, Hebei, and Dongdaihe Bathing Beach in the county of Suizhong in northeastern Liaoning Province.
The beach in Laoting is five miles from Jingtang Port.
Yang Jizhen, head of the Loating Aquaculture Association, said: "Some fishermen plan to hire lawyers to sue CNOOC and ConocoPhillips for the contamination-triggered aquatic losses."
He said scallop losses are estimated at 350 million yuan (US$54 million), but he admitted it was difficult for the fishermen to prove the oil spill from the Penglai 19-3 field was the direct cause.
Li Jiafeng, one of the fishermen, said: "The quality of scallop is mainly determined by the quality of the sea water. Half the young shells I bred this year died and the rest are not good."
He said there were no red tides or abnormal occurrences other than the oil spill that could be blamed for the loss of the shellfish.
"Only after we found the oil particles on the beach did we think that the oil contamination may be the killer," he said.
Yang said local fishermen suffered similar losses from an undersea oil pipeline breach in 2006, and that it prevented the resumption of normal shellfish production for more than two years.
He told reporters that fishermen hoped for revenue of 340 million yuan from an investment of 170 million yuan this year.
Several government departments in Laoting are investigating the oil contamination issue.