Scuba diving can be incredibly relaxing and calming. However, today on my usual morning dive I became increasingly irritated and even angry. First, I found some sweet wrappers and plastic water cups at about 10 meters on a normally pristine coral reef. Judging by the condition of these debris, they had been chucked overboard sometime in the last couple of hours. But what was even more irritating was the continuous loud humming noise reverberating all around that was clearly upsetting marine life - and me and my dive buddy.
When I surfaced my suspicions were confirmed. About a mile away, in the only harbor on the island, there were two large cruise ships docked nose to nose, running their engines to support all the necessary equipment on board. They were also discharging several thousands of people onto the island who would be there just for a few short hours to see what this place was about. One might reasonably assume that cruise ships and their precious cargo of people would be more than good for the economy of the places like this island. But it appears that the main revenue the island generates during these micro-stops are docking fees and the transport fares paid to various enterprises taking the “cruise shippers” on a quick spin around the island. Anecdotally, the local restaurants complain that while cruise ships are on the island, they actually lose money because the regulars stay away and the “cruise shippers” don’t spend much money as they are being fed to the rafters on board their floating hotels.
It would be really interesting to see an analysis of the real net benefit of cruise ships’ visits to this type of island.
The main industry of the particular island I am staying on is tourism, specifically scuba diving, and not visitors off cruise ships, a relatively recent phenomenon. Without scuba diving, the economy here would collapse very quickly.
I also observed that while driving themselves or being driven around the island “cruise shippers” are not short of drinks and snacks. Similar packaging that I found on the reef this morning, I wonder? The pollution that cruise ships generate in terms of noise, rubbish and stretching the local infrastructure to the breaking point could potentially result in sea life moving elsewhere - as would the scuba divers.
I am not against cruise ships in principle (though I believe shipping competes with the much- maligned air travel industry in terms of emissions). However, I do believe there needs to be some balance between various commercial interests such as cruising and scuba diving while at the same time protecting the oceans.
The island’s name is not important in this debate, as I believe that there are many similar destinations around the world facing the same dilemma. The question is: how does one accommodate two very different commercial enterprises that are potentially in conflict with each other?
If you have any ideas, please let us know.