|Map of Yautat Bay - Turner & Hubbard Glaciers - Disenchantment Bay|
The National Marine Mammal Laboratory, which is part of NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center, conducted a study of the impact of cruise ships sailing in Disenchantment Bay, which is where many harbor seals hang out on ice flows during this time of year. While there have not been any changes yet, additional restrictions may be imposed in the future to protect the seals.
|RCI Radiance of the Seas|
As many as five ships a day sail in Disenchantment Bay for closeup views of Hubbard Glacier calving. Many ships already follow self-imposed limits to protect the seals. The impact of cruise ships on seals has been a concern throughout Alaska for some time. In 2009, ships entering Glacier Bay were urged by park officials to stay at least a quarter-mile away from harbor seals. "When disturbed, the seal pups can be separated from their mothers, with potentially fatal consequences," the alert stated. "Disturbances by passing vessels can also stress molting seals and impact their health."
This year there will be approximately 150 cruise ships from seven cruise lines sailing to Hubbard Glacier. Hopefully the scientific community, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe members, representatives from the cruise industry, and other government agencies, can find ways to protect the harbor seals, while preserving one of the most impressive aspects of an Alaskan cruise - glacier cruising.