ANCHORAGE -

On the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the man who was the captain of the ship at that time, Joseph Hazelwood has a message for people in Prince William Sound.

"An apology for the ship that I was in command of disrupting their lives, wreaking havoc on it -- that I hope that their lives have achieved some sort of normalcy now," Hazelwood said. "I mean, that's all I can say; I can't offer any more."

Hazelwood was taken to court after the wreck on Bligh Reef spilled 11 million gallons of oil. While he wasn't on the bridge that night, he was criminally charged and given a trial in Anchorage.

A jury found him not guilty on all counts but one -- negligent discharge of oil.

Today, Hazelwood is hardly recognizable from media reports at the time of the wreck. A salt-and-pepper beard has been replaced by a white one, and Hazelwood himself says people hardly recognize him anymore.

"You know, it's 25 years; people forget," Hazelwood said.

Hazelwood says he still thinks about the animals affected by the spill.

"It was sickening -- I mean, you didn't wanna see anything suffer like that," Hazelwood said. "It was just terrible, and there's no other way to describe it."

He says it's the birds, seen in footage at the time covered in oil but struggling to fly, that he remembers the most.

"It's distressing to watch," Hazelwood said.