Nuisance actions and the protection of marine life

There is a general presumption in law that wild animals, including marine life, belong to nobody until caught or captured, and this means that it is very difficult for anyone to seek compensation for environmental damage done to wildlife in its natural state. Yet a recent Scottish case illustrates how the private civil action of nuisance can be employed in certain circumstances where such damage has occurred.

Mull Shellfish Ltd v Golden Sea Produce (Scottish Court of Session, 2 August 1989)1 arose out of damage caused to the plaintiff's business of cultivating mussels at two seabed sites in Loch Spelve, Mull.

Mull Shellfish claimed that the defendant company, a Norsk Hydro subsidiary which ran a fish farm in the same loch, had used the anti-fouling agent tributyl tin (TBT) to protect its salmon nets between 1984 and 1987, when i

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