People who choose to cruise are unlikely to be aware of the “harmful” impact the largely unregulated industry has on marine life, human health and the environment climate, scientists have warned.

Big Cruise ships can have one Carbon footprint more than 12,000 cars – and are an important source of energy for air, water and land environmental pollution, according to a first evaluation of its kind.

The industry also poses a major potential risk to physical and mental health, according to the review, as it affects both the people on board and those living on nearby land.

Writing in the diary Marine Pollution Bulletin, the researchers argue that the cruise industry “should be held accountable” for its growing environmental and human health impacts.

“I don’t think anyone goes on a cruise with the idea of ​​harming the environment, but unfortunately that’s exactly what they are doing,” said Prof. Lora Fleming, study author and director of the European Center for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter The Independent.

“At this moment in the discussion that we are all having about climate and environmental change and how we could change our own flight and travel habits, I think we should shed some light on that.”

Before the pandemic, the cruise industry was one of the fastest growing in the tourism sector. From 2012 to 2018, the number of active cruise lines worldwide increased by 48 percent.

The review, which evaluates more than 200 scientific papers, is the first to assess the impact of the cruise industry on the environment and people.

Several of the papers contained reveal how cruise ships are contributing to the climate crisis.

One study found that passengers on a seven-day Antarctic cruise release as much CO2 over the course of a year as the average European.

A second study found that an overnight stay on the average cruise ship consumes 12 times more energy than a night in a hotel.

According to the review, traveling ships also pose a major risk to marine life. “Collisions with marine mammals and sea turtles are a major problem,” the scientists write.

Cruise ships pose a risk to traveling sea turtles

(Beacon Development Company / Hector Barrios)

Another issue is waste. Although cruise lines make up only a fraction of the world’s shipping industry, they make up around a quarter of the sector’s total waste, the review found.

Cruises have also been linked to the spread of infectious diseases, the scientists said.

In the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 40 cruise lines confirmed positive cases of the virus on board.

The first ship to experience a major eruption was registered in the UK Diamond princess, recorded 700 cases in February 2020. Nine people on board died.

The scientists behind the new research are calling for stronger international regulation of the largely uncontrolled industry.

“There aren’t a lot of mandatory controls on how much waste or carbon they are producing. There are no coordinated global efforts for this, ”said Prof. Fleming.

“Our paper underscores that cruises are a prime example of how the fate of our health and our environment is intertwined,” added Dr. Josep Lloret, lead author and researcher on the study at the University of Girona in Spain, added.

“We now need global laws to minimize damage to our oceans and our health.”