Activists, tribes tell Carnival: Stop polluting Arctic by burning one of world’s dirtiest fossil fuels

September 15, 2018

International vigils in Seattle, Amsterdam bear witness to melting Arctic, call on cruise giant to clean up its act

SEATTLE, WA — Climate protectors gathered in Amsterdam and Seattle this weekend to bear witness to the ways human-caused climate change is destroying the Arctic. Participants in two international vigils gathered on Arctic sea ice minimum day to highlight the climate-disrupting emissions of the often-overlooked shipping sector, and called on cruise industry giant Carnival Corporation to end its use of the dirtiest fossil fuel available for marine transportation — heavy fuel oil.

See photo and video from the vigils

The Seattle vigil featured a floating art installation in Elliott Bay of a life-size polar bear perched on a melting iceberg. The vigil, co-hosted by environmental organizations, 350 Seattle, Friends of the Earth, and Plant for the Planet, was part of the region-wide Salish Sea Day of Action. The vigil in Amsterdam saw climate protectors dressed in penguin costumes interacting with cruise passengers, delivering a message of solidarity with the Arctic from a species in the Antarctic — where heavy fuel oil is already banned — also threatened by climate change. The vigil was hosted by members of the #CleanUpCarnival coalition.

At the Seattle vigil, members of the Duwamish and Snohomish tribes in Washington, the Curyung tribe in Alaska, and the Saanich First Nation in British Columbia, led a ceremony for the Salish Sea, the world’s oceans, and the animals that depend on them for survival. The speakers addressed how irresponsible practices of the cruise industry threaten their traditional ways of life.

“Hundreds of Alaska Native villages along the coast are at risk from increased Arctic sea ice melt and sea-level rise due to climate change. Cruise ships that use dirty heavy fuel oil exacerbate sea ice melt and endanger our subsistence way of life through a risk of spills and pollution that could harm wildlife and our communities.” -Verner Wilson III, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Friends of the Earth and member of the Curyung Tribe in Dillingham, Alaska

Arctic sea ice minimum day is the annual day when the sea ice extent is at its lowest. Sea ice minimum —  which occurs in mid-September of each year — happens when the ice stops melting and the glaciers begin to accumulate again. The National Snow and Ice Center, which tracks sea ice at, expects this year’s sea ice minimum to be one of the ten lowest in the satellite record. Also this year for the first time on record, the oldest and strongest sea ice north of Greenland began to break apart, sending shockwaves through the climate science community.

Cruise companies that burn heavy fuel oil — like Carnival Corporation and its 10 subsidiary brands — are amplifying the effects of climate change in the Arctic. When soot released from burning heavy fuel oil settles on sea ice, it darkens the surface, decreasing the ability of sea ice to reflect sunlight and accelerating melting. The plight of the world’s oceans, which absorb much of the excess heat from global warming, underscore the urgency for the cruise industry to stop using heavy fuel oil. Nowhere is the impact of warming oceans more evident than in the world’s polar regions, which are experiencing the impacts of climate change at approximately twice the rate of other regions. 

“While Carnival has been busy promoting itself as an environmental leader, its climate emissions keep growing and its ships keep polluting the beautiful places its passengers are paying to see. Every day, Carnival’s cruise ships guzzle the dirtiest possible marine fuel — heavy fuel oil. With dozens of Carnival ships headed to the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic and sub-Arctic, it’s long overdue for the cruise giant to give up its heavy fuel oil addiction.” -Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner at


Holland America, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & PLC, is headquartered in Seattle. Several Holland America routes travel from Seattle and Vancouver, B.C, to ports in Alaska — some of which are located in the sub-Arctic. 

Other Carnival subsidiaries that sail from Seattle and Vancouver to Alaska include Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Seabourn. Carnival brands P&O, Seabourn, Holland America, and Aida sail from ports in Europe to both Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. Carnival’s Cunard Line sails to the sub-Arctic, just skirting the Arctic. 


Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Press Secretary,,, 510-858-9902