Recent visits by cruise ships to the port of Monterey have generated enormous
concern for the health of the Marine Sanctuary. A very popular division of the
travel industry, cruising is attracting up to 80,000 passengers a year. Yet, when
the first mega ship was scheduled to arrive last year, environmentalists were
unprepared for the impacts. We learned that there were very few regulations for
cruise ships at the federal, state or local level. Within days, led by Kaitilin
Gaffney of the Ocean Conservancy, several groups including the Sierra Club were
gathering information and lobbying public officials to protect the coast and the
ocean from the wastewater discharge and smokestack emissions of these polluting
Now, local Assemblymember John Laird has co-authored (with Assemblymembers Nakano
and Simitian) three bills to protect California’s shores and ocean habitat.
AB 906 prohibits the dumping of gray water from kitchens, laundries and showers
as well as discharges from dry cleaning and photo processing chemicals. AB 121
prohibits dumping treated or untreated sewage or bilge water into state waters.
AB 471 requires cruise ships in California coastal waters out to 25 miles to burn
only highway-quality diesel fuel. Cruise ships would also be required to turn
off their diesel engines and hook up to electric power while in port to reduce
smokestack emissions. In addition, AB 906 and AB 121 contain language to direct
the state water agency to petition the federal government to extend these provisions
to protect the four marine sanctuaries along the California coast.
Dedicated environmentalists and politicians are working hard to protect the Sanctuary,
but there needs to be more work on the federal level to clean up cruise ship practices.
The cruise ship industry has an abysmal record for environmental compliance. EPA
figures have showed a large percent of major cruise lines have violated air pollution
Royal Caribbean has pleaded guilty to 21 felony counts for dumping oil and dangerous
chemicals in ports in Alaska and Florida. Recently in Monterey, Crystal Cruise
Line admitted to dumping a variety of wastes in the Sanctuary several months after
the fact. The cruise lines cannot be trusted to monitor their own activities,
and some states visited by cruise lines are reluctant to pass laws to protect
their resources. While Alaska has led the way with some strict laws against air
pollution, proposed legislation in Hawaii restricting the cruise industry never
even received hearings in either the House or the State Senate.
The precious coastal waters belong to us all. We must ensure that these waters
receive strong protection.