Facts: D a company polluted a river killing thousands of fish and damages miles of
natural environment. P, the state, sued claiming that they owe a duty to the people of the
state to provide fish in public waters for public benefit and should therefore be awarded
damages. Trial court dismissed the complaint.
Issue: Does a state or locality have property rights over fish, while they are in the river
that the invasion of those property rights by D will support an action for damages?
Holding: Affirmed. As sovereign over the fish, the state has the right to set up
regulations over how the fish can be used by the public and can set up laws to punish
those that pollute the water and kill the fish, but this does not give the state property
rights over the fish to collect civil damages.
Rationale:
– Though the state has control over the fish and has the right to regulate the use of the
fish, their capacity over the fish is to regulate their taking and conservation for the fish to
run wild, this makes the state a sovereign over the fish, not an owner
– The Antipollution Act of 1967 bestowed upon the state the power to control, prevent
and abate the pollution of surface waters in the state, but it did not give the state the
power to maintain a cause of civil action for monetary damages for the unlawful killing
of fish in the wild state.