The environmental impact of cruising

We always found it very unfair, when we heard that states/islands had restricted anchoring for cruising boats, because we’re convinced that cruise ships, freighters, fishing boats and other big vessels do much more damage, but get away with it due to their financial role.
Observing the behaviour of cruising yachts for a few seasons now around French Polynesia, we must unfortunately admit that they do indeed cause damage after all. It seems that many crews think that there are so few boats around this large area that what they do is of no consequences, but over the year the anchoring yachts sum up to a few dozen here in the Gambier, a few hundred in the Tuamotus and maybe even a few thousand in the Societies. In the Gambier the negative effects are still limited to a few places, in the Tuamotus the more popular places already feel the consequences and in the Societies most of the corals within the lagoons are dead.

While the death of entire reefs may be due to general pollution and climate change (just another effect of the way humanity treats the planet) it gets clear when snorkeling around popular anchorages that coral heads in an otherwise healthy area fall victim to anchor chains. Large dead pieces lie on the bottom and the delicate structures are shorn off and shredded. It means only a little effort to avoid playing havoc with the corals: simply use fenders or buoys (e.g. stray ones from pearl farms) to buoy the chain so it floats over the bommies.

Some cruisers think it’s really cool to ‘live off the land’ on remote islands, collecting coconut crabs, hunting for lobsters and even stealing eggs from the seabird colonies. We talked to a biologist in Makemo and he confirmed what we suspected anyway: it might be okay to take a few crabs (not female ones!) and collect some lobsters (only fully grown ones!), but cruisers just overdo it and take whatever they catch without differentiating. Sadly, locals aren’t into sustainability either in many places, but that’s a different story.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, then the wonders of nature are preserved for those who come after you and authorities don’t feel forced to restrict places for cruising yachts.

1 comment

  1. Diana says:

    How sad…. I hope many people will read it (and take it to heart)! Super writing, Brigit :o )

    Wish you all a great time

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