Cruise Line Faces Investigation After Near Miss With Whales [VIDEO]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries division has launched an investigation after a video showing Holland America Line’s Eurodam sailing near a pod of whales in Alaska was shared on social media.
The video, posted by Brent Kidd Palmer, appears to depict Eurodam sailing very close to a pod of Humpback whales in Alaska’s Inside Passage while the ship was enroute to Juneau on Monday, June 24, 2019. Shot from a nearby vessel, voices on the video say they warned the ship’s captain twice about his proximity to the whales, but the ship did not appear to alter course or slow down.
"There he goes steaming right over the top of where they just surfaced. Hasn't even bothered to slow down yet," the voice said. "You can see the whales right next to the ship, he is steaming right past them at full steam ahead. He was warned twice, he's practically running over the top of them.”
Palmer said in the Facebook post, "Absolute disregard for the Marine Mammals' Protection Act! Or the safety and well being of the whales!"
It’s a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to approach within 100 feet of a Humpback whale, interrupt the prior activity of the whale or to not operate a vessel at a slow, safe speed when near Humpback whales. The video footage appears to show the Eurodam pass well within 100 feet of the whales, and it does not appear the speed of the ship was significantly altered as it approached the whales.
"[We] have received the video and are reviewing it, and... have made contact with the cruise company," Julie Speegle, of NOAA Fisheries, said. The agency will investigate the incident, she told KTOO News.
Holland America said crew observed the pod bubble feeding ahead of the ship around 6:40 a.m. near Kingsmill Point, in a statement to KTOO News. “Following proper protocols, the captain altered course by 10 degrees to create more distance between the ship and whales, allowing them to safely pass,” the statement said.
Reaction on social media was swift and strong, with numerous messages of concern posted to the Holland America Facebook page:
"Why would you blatantly ignore the law and cruise right over the top of these whales? You were warned and completely disregarded this, putting the whales and your passengers at risk. Shame on you!" - Sharyn Taylor
"Holland America Line, we have seen your cookie cutter response claiming that you altered course. We know that all of your AIS data is stored for years back. So show us the AIS data and prove that you altered your course." - James Begeman
"Your shared humanity doesn’t include whales?" - Meghan O’Neil Foster
"Very disappointed in HAL...we cruise with you at least twice a year, and that may change now. Eurodam did an inexcusable thing ignoring warnings that whales were in their path. We were getting ready to book our yearly cruise to Alaska, but will not use HAL until there is a reporting of the consequences for this absolute disregard and respect for the lives and well being of Marine Mammals and other lives, we are not booking with HAL! Shame on you HAL...what a disappointment." - AreJay Vest
This is the latest environmental headache for Carnival Corporation, Holland America’s parent company. Earlier this month, Carnival Corporation and its’ Princess Cruises subsidiary agreed to a $20 million fine for environmental violations including illegal dumping of waste and untreated water in the coastal waters of Alaska.
At that court hearing, US District Judge Patricia Seitz told Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald "You not only work for employees and shareholders. You are a steward of the environment. The environment needs to be a core value, and I hope and pray it becomes your daily anthem."