ShapeShapeauthorShapecrossShapeShapeShapeGrouphamburgerhomeGroupmagnifyShapeShapeShapeShape

Research Institute Wins Historic Case in Sea Farming Lawsuit

the Fish Site Editor
14 December 2005, at 12:00am

TEXAS - The Gulf Marine Institute of Technology (GMIT), an IRS approved non-profit research institute, has been trying to initiate aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico since 1995 and has been involved in a "duel with the titans" to convince current Lt. Governor and prior General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner David Dewhurst and current GLO Commissioner Jerry Patterson to let GMIT proceed with a new sea farming research and development project.

Research Institute Wins Historic Case in Sea Farming Lawsuit - TEXAS - The Gulf Marine Institute of Technology (GMIT), an IRS approved non-profit research institute, has been trying to initiate aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico since 1995 and has been involved in a "duel with the titans" to convince current Lt. Governor and prior General Land Office (GLO) Commissioner David Dewhurst and current GLO Commissioner Jerry Patterson to let GMIT proceed with a new sea farming research and development project.

Past GLO Commissioner Garry Mauro approved the original plan on September 18, 1998. The publicly and oil industry supported research project was planned in 1999 to utilize one of the largest, and only, oil and gas platform complexes ever donated to research, located 10 miles offshore in state waters South of Port O'Connor, Texas. This unique four-platform complex was planned to be the operations base for developing Gulf finfish farming technology, high tech fish hatcheries, and sea cage systems for a new Texas offshore industry. "Mariculture" operations are currently exploding worldwide in Chile, Norway, the EU, China and Japan creating thousands of jobs; however, sea farming has virtually no presence in the US coastal zones due to the regulatory difficulties of obtaining sites and permits to operate in state and federal waters.

GMIT was forced to file a lawsuit against Commissioner Dewhurst in Matagorda County, Texas, to protect its US Army Corps of Engineers permitted platforms and lease site because prior Commissioner Dewhurst tried to illegally cancel GMIT's land lease and make the research institute destroy the multi-million dollar, four-platform complex which was donated by Devon Energy Corporation (formally Seagull Energy) for its sea farming research and development project.

To add insult to injury, Commissioner Dewhurst threatened to demand the proceeds of the research institute's $2.6 million platform abandonment bond and make the donor, Devon Energy Corporation, tear down the platforms before GMIT ever had the chance to use the platform system for research. The enormous mariculture performance bond was provided by GMIT to the GLO in 1998 for its sea farming research and development project as one of many conditions for Commissioner Mauro's approval.

A trial to stop Mr. Dewhurst from interfering with GMIT's project was originally scheduled in Bay City, Texas, for September 7, 2000; however, the trial was repeatedly delayed until January 3, 2005 because the Texas Attorney General's Office, representing Commissioner Dewhurst, filed delay actions to the Texas Circuit Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, and subsequently, to the Texas Supreme Court to deny GMIT's efforts.

GMIT has prevailed against the GLO at every trial, resulting is a decision issued by Judge Craig Estlinbaum on November 15, 2005, which supported the prior Corpus Christi Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on July 12, 2001. Chief Judge Amidei of the appeal court had found that Mr. Dewhurst "acted illegally" by his actions against GMIT's sea farming project. Judge Estlinbaum ruled, like the court of appeals, that GMIT did in fact have the right to a 50-year lease where the huge platform complex site is located for mariculture research and related operations and awarded $279,212.00 in attorney fees plus up to $50,000 if the State continues to appeal his final judgment. This dramatic win was orchestrated by GMIT's legal team headed by Mr. David Cowen, along with Doug Poole and April Marburger of the law firm of McLeod, Alexander, Powell & Apffel of Galveston; Mr. Ronnie Collins of the law firm Duckett, Bouligny and Collins of El Campo; and the assistance of previous House Speaker Mr. Tom Uher of Bay City.

Although the State of Texas has been behind the times on mariculture research, President George W. Bush has the best intentions to stimulate research and development for a new sea farming industry for Texas and the United States coastal zones. His administration recently announced on June 8, 2005, by NOAA Undersecretary of Commerce, Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, that offshore aquaculture was planned to become a key to the nations nutrition independence. Undersecretary Lautenbacher stated, "The Administrations' goal is to develop a sustainable marine program in the United States that balances the needs of fisherman, coastal residents and visitors, seafood consumers, the environment, and the aquaculture industry."

GMIT intends to resurrect the project and is campaigning to obtain new sponsorship and possible federal grants to renovate the platform complex for sea farming research and development purposes.

For further information on GMIT, the final judgement or for interview opportunities regarding this landmark case, please contact John Ericsson, GMIT Managing Director at jde4u@aol.com , GMIT attorney Mr. David Cowen at (409) 763-2481 or visit the GMIT website at http://www.gmitinfo.com to see more about their research and platform complex.

Source: PRNewswire - 14th December 2005