The owners of a container ship that crashed in San Francisco Bay, spilling 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel and causing widespread environmental damage, will pay $44.4 million to settle civil lawsuits with the government.

The money from Cosco Busan owners Regal Stone Limited and Fleet Management Ltd. will go toward restoring natural resources and reimbursing state and federal agencies that responded to the disaster.

The comprehensive settlement was announced Monday at Treasure Island in a joint news conference by state Attorney General Kamla Harris, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and local officials.

"This Bay is the jewel of the San Francisco region and the Cosco Busan oil spill left a lasting scar across our water, natural habitats and wildlife," she said in a written statement. "This settlement will allow all of these precious resources to be restored to their original health and beauty."

The spill happened when the ship piloted by John Cota, 63, of Petaluma, struck a fender of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Bunker fuel that poured from the damaged hull killed thousands of birds and fish while disrupting commercial fishing along miles of coastline.

Cota was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison after pleading to a violation of the Clean Water Act and the ship's owners last year were ordered to pay $10 million in fines.

North Coast killers on death row


Robert Scully
Age: 58
Year arrived: 1997
Crime: Murdered Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Trejo

Richard Allen Davis
Age: 62
Year arrived: 1996
Crime: Murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas

Ramon Salcido
Age: 55
Year arrived: 1990
Crime: Murdered seven people, including his wife and two daughters


Jerrold Johnson
Age: 54
Year arrived: 2000
Crime: Home invasion-murder of 76-year-old Ellen Salling

Gerald Stanley
Age: 71
Year Arrived: 1984
Crime: Convicted of killing two of his wives