The issue of water quality standards for cruise ships is back before the Alaska Legislature. Bills introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell would delete a statutory requirement for the cruise ships to comply with Alaska water quality standards at the point of discharge.
Gershon Cohen of Haines was a co-sponsor of the victorious 2006 Cruise Ship ballot initiative that created the current rules. He says the commercial fishing industry should be outraged by these proposed changes, included in House Bill 80 and Senate Bill 29. Essentially, Cohen said, Parnell’s bills would overturn a fundamental provision of the cruise ship discharge law that won by popular vote.
Under current state law commercial passenger vessels are required not to discharge untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates effluent limits or standards under state or federal law- including Alaska water quality standards governing pollution t the point of discharge except with specific documentation of those discharges.
Parnell’s legislation would allow cruise ships to have mixing zones for discharge of solid or liquid waste materials in public water bodies.
Cruise ships would no longer have to meet Alaska water quality standards at the point of discharge, Cohen said. They would be required only not to discharge untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates applicable state or federal law governing disposal or discharge of solid or liquid waste material.
Cohen notes that the entire marketing campaign for wild Alaska salmon is based on the salmon being wild fish, taken from the pristine waters of Alaska.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute actually boasts on its website about the “wild and pure” quality of the state’s seafood overall.
“Alaska is home to abundant stocks of many species of fish and offers some of the cleanest marine, freshwater and upland habitats in the world,” the website says. “Effective state and federal institutions manage fisheries that are productive and sustainable, clean and healthy.
“…Alaska’s marine habitats re extremely clean, and Alaska’s seafood is pure and remarkably free of contamination by pesticides, petroleum derivatives, PCBs, metals, and bacteria.”
Says Cohen, “if I were in the farmed fish business, I would be posting photos of cruise ships discharging into waters where these fish are caught. I think many fishermen probably agree, but they are scared to say anything like this publicly because if the change goes through, they will have already admitted it is at minimum a serious marketing problem.”