Cruise plea deal

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007

I read with interest the story about the "plea deal" Princess Cruise Lines agreed to for one of its ships allegedly killing a humpback whale somewhere near Glacier Bay National Park in 2001.

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The part of the agreement that perturbs me is that $550,000 is being paid to the Glacier Bay National Park as "community service restitution."

What community service? The only community near this park is Gustavus, and I don't see a dime going to the community. Instead it's going to the park service (admittedly the one called Glacier Bay National Park.) This Park is historically anti-community and the residents there had to fight to get their private land back from the park service; they are denied vessel entry into the adjacent park except by a particularly increasingly onerous permit system; denied using a taxpayer-funded "public" boat launching ramp without said permit; denied access to a taxpayer-funded landing dock without said permit; denied access to a taxpayer-funded marine fueling facility without said permit; and on and on. People in the community are blamed for "scaring whales" when the park service's own vessels are statistically responsible for the huge majority of vessel use in Bartlett Cove and Glacier Bay. The State of Alaska and thereby the community of Gustavus is denied construction of a ferry terminal and dock in Bartlett Cove, the only safe harbor in the vicinity. Where's the community service?

As for the "restitution," why is the park service getting "restitution" when whales are the responsibility of an entirely different federal agency, The National Marine Fisheries Agency? The whales don't "belong" to the park service, they belong to all the people of the United States and the world. Why isn't that money being at least paid toward the federal budget as a whole, rather than being dedicated?

Furthermore, there has never been any "proof" the vessel even struck the whale within the Glacier Bay National Park. These whales commonly frequent Icy Straits outside park waters as much as within the park. Maybe the whale was struck in state waters and merely drifted into Glacier Bay with the tide and then discovered. Shouldn't the state therefore get a share of the fine?

And if this animal is worth a total of "$775,000 in fines and restitution for a single misdemeanor charge," shouldn't the law really be a felony?

Sounds like a "real deal" to me all right.

Wayne Fleek


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