The Ships Hit the Fan

Corri Barrs says there's something you should know about the garbage that's washing up on the shores of Matheson Hammock

Coast Guard officials say they, too, are frustrated with their inability to prosecute. "Just the fact that the plastic is in the water does not prove the vessel discharged it," says Lt. Donna Kuebler, a Coast Guard marine environmental protection officer in Miami. "A lot of cruise ship companies are arguing that once they discharge the garbage to shoreside facilities, those people then turn around and toss it in the water. And some of garbage could be legitimately blowing overboard or could be tossed by passengers. There are times when passengers or crew members send videotapes where they have witnessed trash being discharged, and we can process violations in those instances. But anything short of an eyewitness with a signed statement is hard to prove." In the past year, the Coast Guard office in Miami handled nineteen plastic-dumping cases, which includes recreational boaters as well as cruise ships.

Barrs vows to keep up the pressure on the cruise lines and to raise awareness among the general public until no more junk from their ships washes ashore. "Do you know what this stuff does in environmentally sensitive areas?" she asks. "And the thing about it is, we have the ability to stop it. It's not that hard to just stop tossing this stuff overboard.

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