Opinion: Alaskans should support Ocean Ranger program

Mark and Karen Severson

As commercial fishermen traveling to and from the fishing grounds, we have seen an increase in pollution by the cruise industry, both water and air. The summer of 2019 was very concerning. The mixing zone between Chatham Straights and Frederick Sound where it is legal for the cruise ships to dump their gray water was streaked with blackish foamy water pollution miles long and hundreds of feet wide. The hillsides were lined with blue smoke from their exhaust scrubbers that clung to the trees all summer long. Department of Environmental office in Juneau told us that they had many complaints of the same thing I was reporting.

The state of Alaska has a responsibility to protect the environment for the public and for the land, waters and wildlife of our extraordinary state. The Ocean Ranger program is funded by a $4 per-berth fee paid by cruise ship passengers. No general funds are used to support this program.

The voters created the Ocean Ranger program because they wanted a level of monitoring to ensure that the laws and regulations are followed.

Jason Brune, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation wants to remove the program.

Both he and the governor oppose the Ocean Ranger program, and have stated they consider the program targeting the cruise industry as inappropriate and offensive.

The program still exists in state law, and all Alaskans should be concerned that these floating cities could go unchecked.

Alaska cruising is huge in the industry; there will be more than ever after the pandemic recovery. They need to know they are being watched so that they adhere to environmental standards. We can welcome tourism and still protect our beautiful state and resources.

Email jason.brune@alaska.gov . Let him know Alaskans want to keep the Ocean Ranger program.

• Mark and Karen Severson are commercial fishermen who reside in Petersburg.

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