French oil giant Total and five other defendants went on trial again Monday in a Paris appeals court for a 1999 ecological disaster caused by the sinking of an oil tanker.

Dozens of plaintiffs, including towns and communities, are demanding that the ecological damage they suffered be legally recognized and are demanding higher compensation than they were accorded in the judgment of January 16, 2008.

In that judgment, only the damage done to the bird population along France’s western coast was recognized as ecological damage by the court.

Total and its co-defendants were jointly fined 192 million euros (currently 280 million euros). Individual fines ranging from 75,000 to 375,000 euros were also imposed.

The sinking of the tanker Erika in December 1999 released 20,000 tons of fuel oil into the Atlantic Ocean, which polluted 400 kilometres of French coastline and killed about 150,000 birds.

The disaster led to the creation of a European agency for marine security and provoked a change in European regulations for oil tankers. As a result, single-hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil are no longer allowed to call at European ports.

Keywords: TotalOil spill