By land and sea, protests welcome the last major cruise ship to call in Key West


About 200 people gathered Thursday morning at Mallory Pier in Key West to watch Norwegian Dawn enter the privately owned Pier B next door. During this time, about twenty small boats were in the port.

They waved flags bearing the logo of Safer, Cleaner Ships, the group that organized a petition that led to last year’s referendum on regulating cruise ships.

More than 60% of Key West voters approved limiting the number of people who can come to the island by cruise ship to 1,500 people per day, the capacity of ships to 1,300 people, and called on the city to donate. priority is given to ships offering the best health and safety conditions. records.

Those limits were overturned last spring by the state legislature, which passed a law prohibiting voter-initiated regulation of ports.

The crowd chanted “respect our vote!” when the 915-foot Norwegian Dawn arrived, carrying 2,134 people – 1,061 passengers and 1,073 crew.

Erin Rust was there with a sign saying “we voted no”. She said local conditions improved in the 20 months the ships did not visit the island.

“The quality of the dives improved a lot, the quality of the fishing improved a lot, it was back to our island life here and it was slow paced as we like it,” said Rust. “And having things this big and having so many people here, it does it, it takes away the experience and kind of ruins it. We want people to visit Key West, but not thousands every day.”

Another protester, Susan Rouf, held a sign saying “you are welcome, your ship is not”.

“Passengers, I welcome them, but please come with a smaller ship, a safer ship, a more environmentally friendly ship,” she said. “Save our reef.”

Cruise ships stir up plumes of sediment as they enter Key West Harbor via the shipping channel. This is an area that fishermen find crucial for fish moving from the Gulf of Mexico to the Keys and the Straits of Florida.

And they say the silt chokes out marine life that can’t escape, like seagrass and corals.

Tom McMurrain manages Pier B. He admitted the cruise ships stirred the silt, but said it was dissipating “fairly quickly”.

He said protesters just below the waterfront had the right to speak out.

“It’s a democracy. They can protest, they can do whatever they want. It’s their right,” McMurrain said.

But he said the main causes of coral death are global warming, development, overfishing and disease of corals, not cruise ships.

The Key West City Commission has been discussing for months how it might regulate cruise ships. Key West is a city-owned port, so the commission is essentially the port authority.

The commission recently hired an outside lawyer to help draft new orders. A city workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday, December 13, with the sole purpose of providing advice to the city manager and city attorney on cruise ships.

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