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Cruise Ships Going Electric in San Francisco is Good for West Coast Sea Turtles and Oceans

Cruise ships docking at Pier 27 in San Francisco will hook up to city electric power and slash smokestack pollution while in port

SAN FRANCISCO – The first cruise ship to hook up to electrical power at the Port of San Francisco docks today at Pier 27 along the Embarcadero. The ship will turn off its diesel engines while in port and switch to the city’s cleaner electric grid power, cutting air pollution and climate change gases by 80 percent or more.

“Cleaning up cruise ship emissions in San Francisco will benefit people and air quality near the port, but will also help ensure the long-term survival of sea turtles and other marine life by cutting climate-changing gases and air pollution,” said Teri Shore of Turtle Island Restoration Network of Forest Knolls, Calif.

Beginning this year, all major California ports must implement electric hook-ups or equivalent measures for cruise, container and refrigerated ships to meet state air pollution regulations for ocean-going vessels.

The cut in smokestack pollution is good news for the critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles that are now feeding on jellyfish outside the Golden Gate and along the California coast. Shipping emissions contribute to warming oceans and acidification that are taking a toll on leatherbacks and other species of sea turtles and marine life.See leatherback sighting map on left.

“The West Coast is leading the nation for shore power for cruise ships and as more shore-based power becomes available, more ships can plug in and reduce harmful air and greenhouse gas emissions while in port,” said Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth (FOE) in San Francisco. FOE’s Cruise Ship Report Card (available at www.foe.org/cruisereportcard) helps the public choose a cruise that can plug-in to shoreside power.

Every year between August and November, hundreds of critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles converge outside the Golden Gate and up the coast to feast on jellyfish, sometimes congregating in the shipping lanes. More than 70,000 square miles of coastline stretching from San Francisco north to Oregon and Washington where cruise ships make regular voyages is considered some of the most important ocean habitat in the world for disappearing Pacific leatherbacks. See map at left. Read more.

The U. S. government has proposed that these waters be officially designated as “critical habitat” for the species, which would give these sea turtles, their prey and ocean habitat protection from human activities in an effort to prevent the leatherback’s extinction. SeeĀ  map at left of proposal critical habitat areas.

Greenhouse gas emissions from ships contribute to climate change and acidification of the oceans. Global warming is increasing water temperatures and changing ocean currents that are critical to migrating turtles. Warming ocean temperatures are also likely to negatively impact the food resources for sea turtles and virtually all marine species. Hotter sands on nesting beaches also produce mostly female sea turtles.

Ship emissions also contribute to air pollution over the ocean, deposition of sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides on the ocean’s surface which can contribute to dead zones and algae blooms harmful to sea turtles and marine life, and deposition of particulate matter that adds to global warming. See leatherback sightings in shipping lanes, left.

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