Antarctica provides a delicate ecosystem for some of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders and enchanting creatures. Certain species of penguins inhabit and depend on this icy continent for their survival. Currently in a fragile state, both penguins and Antarctica will suffer from the affects of cruise ships that travel to this land.
Cruise ships greatly contribute to air, water, and noise pollution. Cruise ships use diesel engines, a major source of air pollution. The emissions from a single cruise ship are equivalent to the emissions from 12,000 cars every day. Emissions are largely unregulated by federal and international law. The air pollution from ships directly impacts global warming, an issue that is a major threat to the penguins of Antarctica. The more cruise ships that are allowed to travel to Antarctica, the more pollutants will be released into the air. While climate change may be a slow acting threat to penguins, water pollution has immediate and lasting consequences.
In 2008, the EPA discovered that some cruise ships dumped up to 10,000 times the legal limit established by the Clean Water Act. However, international laws still allow ships to dump untreated sewage, ground up garbage, and food into the water as long as the ship is three miles or greater from shore. Up to 30,000 gallons of sewage from toilets and nearly 150,000 gallons of sewage from showers and sinks are produced by cruise ships daily. Harmful toxins from sewage kill food sources of penguins. Since penguins are unable to fly, they rely on certain areas to catch their food. If the feeding areas are damaged by pollution, many penguins will perish. Food waste also negatively impacts marine life by creating acid in the water, lowering the oxygen level, and increasing foreign nutrients.
Noise pollution is another concern for penguins. Cruise ships are noisy and can scare hunting penguins away from their feeding areas as well as force their prey into different waters. Tourist noise can disrupt the penguins and human presence may even drive them away from nesting grounds.
Penguins are extremely sensitive to changes in their habitat as well as changes in prey availability. Over half of penguin species are endangered or vulnerable. Contributing factors include climate change, habitat destruction, and pollution. In fact, the Patagonian penguin population has decreased by 22% from 1987. Scientists have concluded petroleum pollution as the major cause of the decline.
Climate change, over fishing, pollution, loss of habitat, increased tourism, and diseases are factors threatening the survival of penguins. Cruise ships are bad for the penguins of Antarctica, as they will only add to the strain of an already fragile species.