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In July 1998, some concerned Oregon commercial trawl fishermen negotiated a cooperative agreement with WCI Cable, Inc. and Alaska Northstar Communications, LLC (WCICI/ANC/NorthStar Network), two related fiber optic cable companies operating a fiber optic cable landing at Nedonna Beach, Oregon. The Oregon Fishermen's Undersea Cable Committee Agreement (Oregon Fishermen's Agreement) was the first effort by two industries to discuss, describe and delineate their shared use of a community resource-the ocean.
Since this historic cooperative effort, ten other undersea fiber optic cables have benefited from this relationship with West Coast fishermen by joining the Oregon Fishermen's Cable Committee. The Committee continues to dedicate itself to maintaining and building upon these industry-to-industry relationships.

Undersea fiber optic cable companies are interested in preventing damage to their cables rather than collecting damages from a fisherman in the event of damage to a cable. These companies also respect the right of commercial fishermen to fish the seas. The Oregon Fishermen's Agreement is intended to prevent damage to the fiber optic cable by releasing a participating fisherman from possible civil liability for ordinary negligence to a fiber optic cable company under defined circumstances, rather than by relying upon fear and litigation.
The Oregon Fishermen's Agreement is founded upon a belief that a fisherman who has possibly snagged a cable is less likely to continue hauling on the snagged gear and jeopardizing the cable if the fisherman is immediately compensated for the sacrificed gear and released from civil liability for ordinary negligence. A cooperative approach appears to be more likely to prevent damage to the fiber optic cable than the threat of harsh civil and criminal penalties.

A cooperative approach also recognizes the right of commercial fishermen to fish the seas, including the seas over and around a fiber optic cable. The Oregon Fishermen's Agreement, however, requires participation by each individual fisherman to be effective.


The Oregon commercial fishermen and fiber optic cable companies cooperate in selecting cable routes and seek to inform fishermen about the location of the fiber optic cable. When a participating fisherman has possibly snagged a cable, the fisherman must call a 24-hour toll free telephone number maintained by the fiber optic cable company to discuss the situation. The cable company representative has the immediate authority to approve cutting the gear and is thereby authorizing the provision of replacement gear to the fisherman from approved suppliers. This payment to the approved suppliers is intended to avoid the lengthy delays and the often inadequate compensation that frustrated fishermen in the past. The claim must then be presented in writing to the Oregon Committee for review.

The Oregon Committee constituted of Oregon commercial fishermen and fiber optic cable representatives, reviews and investigates the written claim for compensation including, if necessary, requesting an inspection of the cable by an underwater remote operated vehicle. If the Oregon Committee later denies the claim because of fraud, misrepresentation or failure to follow the required procedures, the payment to the approved suppliers for the sacrificed gear is treated as a loan to the fisherman that may have to be repaid by the fisherman.

Under current international and national law, a person damaging a submarine cable can be subject to severe civil and criminal penalties. Fiber optic cable companies, acting with and through the Oregon Committee, further agree that they will actively encourage governmental authorities to not bring or maintain any civil or criminal actions or penalties against a Participating Fisherman who honors the Operating Procedures and other procedures established by the Oregon Committee pursuant to the Oregon Fishermen's Agreement.

The Oregon Fishermen's Agreement is the Magna Carta between member West Coast commercial fishermen and fiber optic cable companies. The OFCC intends to maintain, and build upon, its long history of collaborating with the fishing and undersea telecommunications industries in order to reach mutually satisfactory solutions to ocean- use issues.

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