Ocean Pollution

Cruise ships posing risk to sea turtles, review finds

written by Oceanographic Staff

An international research team led the most comprehensive research review ever conducted on the cruise ship industry. It argues that the industry’s wide-ranging impact on the environment, human health and wildlife should be subject to global monitoring and effective legislation.

The review, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, found that the cruise ship industry is not only a major source of environmental pollution and degradation, it also directly affects air quality and wildlife like sea turtles. The scientists behind the review wrote that travelling vessels pose a large risk to marine life, arguing that “collisions with marine mammals and sea turtles represent a major issue”.

The first-of-its-kind review combines findings from over 200 research papers. It said that large cruise ships can have a bigger carbon footprint than 12,000 cars. One of the studies included in the review argued that passengers on a seven-day cruise through the Antarctic cause the same release of CO2 as the average European over an entire year. Another study from 2007 found that cruise ships travelling to New Zealand had at least three times higher emissions than emissions from international aviation.

Apart from unsustainable amounts of CO2 being released, the review found that cruise vessels account for a quarter of all the waste produced by the global shipping industry, while only representing a fraction of the industry. Another finding is that the cruise ship industry is a potential source of mental and physical human health risks to staff, passengers and land-based residents.

The review also pointed out that people going on cruises are most likely unaware of the harmful impact of the industry on human health, the climate and marine life. That’s why Professor Lora Fleming of the University of Exeter and one of the authors of the review called for stronger international monitoring and regulation: “We need much better monitoring to generate more robust data for the true picture of these impacts. Without new and strictly enforced national and international standardised rules, the cruise industry is likely to continue causing these serious health and environmental hazards.” “Cruise tourism is a was rapidly expanding pre COVID-19, and our research shows it causes major impacts on the environment and on human health and wellbeing,” she said.

First author Dr Josep Lloret, of the University of Girona, said: “Our paper highlights that cruising is a prime example of how the fates of our health and our environments are intertwined. Up until now, most studies have looked at aspects of this in isolation. Our review is the most comprehensive to date to combine these research fields and take a holistic view of how cruising damage our environments and our health. We now need global legislation to minimise damage on both our oceans and our health.”

The review “Environmental and Human Health Impacts of Cruise Tourism: a Review” can be found here.

For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here.

Photography courtesy of Unsplash.

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