Opinion: Cruise ship routes don’t make sense

  • Sunday, September 1, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion
In this photo taken on June 17, 2002, a humpback whale lunge feeds in front of kayakers near the North Douglas boat ramp. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this photo taken on June 17, 2002, a humpback whale lunge feeds in front of kayakers near the North Douglas boat ramp. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

So I’m confused.

Why would a Princess cruise ship have a “standard” route that takes the 1,000-feet-long ship, traveling at 20 mph through a narrow passage in Frederick Sound that is known, by any boater in Southeast Alaska, for routine use by feeding whales, lots of whales, like 30 to 50 whales. My husband and I passed northbound through the narrow waters between the Brothers Islands and Admiralty Island on the morning of Aug. 10. In our 32-foot boat, we had to actively steer around feeding whales to avoid disturbing them. As we continued northward, we saw the Grand Princess heading south. I radioed the ship, alerting them to at least 30 humpback whales that were feeding in the area into which the ship was heading. I recommended that the ship alter course — while they still had plenty of time — to pass east of the Brothers where Frederick Sound is much wider. I was told by the pilot that he had 30 years’ experience and this was the ship’s “standard” route. Thirty years’ experience running whales over?

Why are cruise ships allowed to travel routes that are known for high concentrations of whales when alternative routes are readily available? Because, I have been told, no federal agency has the authority to regulate the ships’ routes. OK, but why do the cruise lines and the pilots choose these routes, knowing that they will have a challenging time trying to maintain the NOAA-required 100-yard distance from 50 feeding whales in a narrow passage? Because no one is watching to document violations on video? No wonder more and more Juneau residents are angry with the cruise lines’ shameful disregard for our Southeast Alaska.

Sue Schrader


• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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