11th Circuit denies appeal by victims of Carnival Corporation’s environmental crimes

June 20, 2019

Bahamas, Alaska residents disappointed by ruling; Stand.earth puts cruise giant on notice to clean up its act

MIAMI, Florida — The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an appeal by four individuals harmed by Carnival Corporation’s environmental crimes. The Bahamas and Alaska residents filed their appeal after the decision earlier this month by a federal judge in Miami to accept a backroom plea deal between Carnival and the Justice Department to pay $20M in fines for its cruise ship pollution — stemming from multiple probation violations from a 2016 criminal conviction on seven felony counts — without any review or participation from those impacted by the cruise giant’s pollution.

The victims filed their original emergency motion on May 31 to intervene in the court proceedings ahead of a June 3 hearing, asking the federal district court to recognize their right to participate in the case. The victims recounted the impacts Carnival’s pollution has had on their livelihoods and quality of life, and asked the judge to carefully consider these effects when weighing an appropriate punishment. The victims filed their appeal on June 17, asking the 11th Circuit to review United States District Court Judge Patricia Seitz’s decision that the victims did not meet the standard of ‘victim’ under the Crime Victims Rights Act. 

The victims include Fotini “Sam” Tsavousis Duncombe, a Bahamian citizen and co-founder of Bahamian-based environmental group reEarth; Theodore Thoma, the president of Responsible Cruising in Alaska; and Ronn Buschmann and Eric Forrer, who are both Alaska residents and retired commercial fishermen. 

“To say that the denial of our rights as victims of Carnival Corporation’s crimes is disappointing would be putting it mildly. We were hopeful that given the evidence found by the court appointed inspectors, Judge Seitz would have taken our environmental injuries into account. We have been living with the impacts of Carnival’s environmental crimes for decades. We have borne witness to the degradation of our livelihoods, quality of life, and fragile ecosystems as a result. The evidence was there. Justice, apparently, was not,” said Duncombe.

“We’re putting Carnival on notice that Stand.earth will be working with victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes to hold Carnival Corporation accountable.  We’ll be organizing communities and using environmental and consumer protection laws to force Carnival to clean up its business,” said Knoll Lowney, legal counsel for the victims.

The appeal is supported by international environmental organization Stand.earth, which leads the international Clean Up Carnival campaign calling on Carnival Corporation to clean up its environmental practices, including ending its use of heavy fuel oil — one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on Earth.

“Environmental crime victims have historically faced an uphill battle to have their intrinsic human right to a healthy environment recognized, from Love Canal to today. The victims in this case have lived with the significant impacts of Carnival’s environmental lawbreaking for decades. It has affected the health of their communities, their quality of life, and their livelihoods in very tangible ways. While the courts have again utterly failed these victims, we will continue to stand with them to fight for their right to be free from Carnival’s criminal pollution,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner at Stand.earth.

In January 2019, Stand.earth released a study commissioned from a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health faculty member showing that air pollution on the decks of Carnival ships can be as bad or worse than some of the world’s most polluted cities.

Stand is also actively engaged at the UN International Maritime Organization to push for an end to the use of heavy fuel oil in the sensitive Arctic ecosystem, as well as ending the use of scrubbers — or exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) — as an alternative compliance mechanism to cleaner fuel for air pollution control. Dozens of Carnival’s violations related to failures of EGCS for a variety of reasons. 


Media contacts:

Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner, kendra@stand.earth, +1 (360) 255-3555 

Knoll Lowney, Legal Counsel for Victims: knoll@smithandlowney.com, +1 (206) 650-1044