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On March 24, 2014, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the spill, NOAA scientists reported that some species seem to have recovered, with the sea otter the latest creature to return to pre-spill numbers.Scientists who have monitored the spill area for the last 25 years report that concern remains for one of two pods of local orca whales, with fears that one pod may eventually die out.) of oil remains on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles (725 km) away.After more appeals, and oral arguments heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 27, 2006, the damages award was cut to .5 billion on December 22, 2006.The court cited recent Supreme Court rulings relative to limits on punitive damages. On May 23, 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Exxon Mobil's request for a third hearing and let stand its ruling that Exxon owes .5 billion in punitive damages.Exxon then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.In a decision issued June 25, 2008, Justice David Souter issued the judgment of the court, vacating the .5 billion award and remanding the case back to the lower court, finding that the damages were excessive with respect to maritime common law.The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay oil field, eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who was widely reported to have been drinking heavily that night, was not at the controls when the ship struck the reef.
As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender.They reported that "species as diverse as sea otters, harlequin ducks and killer whales suffered large, long-term losses and that oiled mussel beds and other tidal shoreline habitats will take an estimated 30 years to recover." In 2006, a study done by the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau found that about 6 miles (9.7 km) of shoreline around Prince William Sound was still affected by the spill, with 101.6 tonnes of oil remaining in the area.Exxon Mobil denied any concerns over any remaining oil, stating that they anticipated a remaining fraction that they assert will not cause any long-term ecological impacts, according to the conclusions of the studies they had done: "We've done 350 peer-reviewed studies of Prince William Sound, and those studies conclude that Prince William Sound has recovered, it's healthy and it's thriving." However, in 2007 a NOAA study concluded that this contamination can produce chronic low-level exposure, discourage subsistence where the contamination is heavy, and decrease the "wilderness character" of the area.plankton) are the basis of the coastal marine food chain, and others (e.g.certain bacteria and fungi) are capable of facilitating the biodegradation of oil.