Several cruise ships have anchored in the bay at La Paz, Baja California Sur, triggering concerns among many local citizens that the vessels are a threat to the environment.
About 200 people showed up to protest on the city’s boardwalk on Friday afternoon to demand that the port administration and environmental authorities intervene to protect the bay from pollution.
“We are not a parking lot,” read the signs of some demonstrators, who claim that black, sooty stains found on beaches in the area were caused by the ships, which are not currently operating due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Collective of Southern Baja California Academics (CAS) and the Center for Renewable Energy and Environmental Quality (CERCA), the cruise ships are polluting the air and water in the area, which is known for its pristine beaches and abundant marine life.
The groups added that the stationary ships are not contributing to the local economy and have increased concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates, putting whale sharks, dolphins and other marine species at risk.
Tourist service providers also expressed concern about the ships and their effect on the local whale shark population.
Similarly, Nezahualpilli Tovar, the director of a group that provides whale shark tours, said that since the cruise ships arrived, whale shark sightings have been lower than ever seen before at this time of year.
“We are totally against the cruise ships anchored in the bay of La Paz and against the light and sound pollution in an area that is a refuge for whale sharks. It puts at risk the ecosystem and the livelihoods of those of us who are dedicated to the conservation of the species,” Tovar said. “Normally in April and May we can count on 10 to 15 [whale sharks] in the water. Today we have less than five,” making tours impossible.
Luis Manuel Vargas, another local tour operator, said there is no definitive evidence linking the cruise ships to the sooty pollution recently found on beaches but that given the high probability that they are linked, local authorities should take precautionary action.
Port director José López Soto says the ships are not polluting and they comply with environmental standards necessary to remain anchored in the bay. Protesters say there has been no information made public to support the claim.