Cruises to Alaska are one of the most booked cruises in the United States. However, according to new research, these ships are leaving behind a trail of toxic waste in Canada, including within marine protected areas.

Source: Second Thought/Youtube

To get to Alaska, cruise ships typically travel along Canada’s west coast for two or three days. Over 31 billion liters (8.5 billion gallons) of pollution every year are estimated to be discharged off the Canadian coast by cruise ships going to and from Alaska. The report was published by environmental organizations and West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL).

“There’s this perverse incentive to treat Canada like a toilet bowl,” said Anna Barford, Canada shipping campaigner at “They’re just using us like a highway and tossing stuff left, right and centre.”

The coastline of Canada is 151,019 miles, and every year, ships generate 147 billion liters of harmful waste each year. This is equivalent to 59,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to a 2022 report by WWF-Canada. The report found that cruise ships were the largest polluters, despite only making up 2 percent of the marine traffic looked at.

Pollution from cruise ships comes from things like toxic sewage from toilets, greywater from sinks, showers, laundry, and bilge water which is the oily liquid that collects at the lowest part of the ship. WWF says that the largest pollution source is from scrubbers, which are devices installed to remove exhaust gases like sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, and particles. The scrubbers, however, create acidic wastewater that contains a ‘cocktail of chemicals.’

According to the report, just a one-week trip to Alaska and back generates nearly 200 million liters of waste from scrubbers. Ships are allowed to decide if they want to discharge at sea or within a port, while most waste is dumped as it is generated.

Canada’s federal dumping regulations are much less strict than those in the United States. Cruise ships often have a bad record of maintaining environmental regulations anyways. Along the coast of the state of Washington, the ocean habitat is protected and classified as a no-discharge zone. Alaska also requires cruise ships to apply for and receive permission to discharge sewage and greywater. While these regulations are good for these areas, it simply encourages ships to hold their waste until they get to Canadian waters and can dump it legally.

Canada is working on stricter regulations to limit the discharge of grey water and sewage from ships traveling in Canadian waters. However, The Guardian reported that the measures are simply voluntary and do not apply to ship scrubbers.

The release of these substances is extremely harmful to marine life and delicate underwater ecosystems. We need to work to protect our oceans and let these cruise ships know that it’s not ok to dump carelessly in the oceans! Sign this petition to tell cruise ships to stop polluting our oceans!

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