By participating in an EPA-funded study of copper-free paints, Hornblower Cruises & Events is pioneering efforts to protect marine life and minimize boating impact in San Diego Bay. Researchers will spend the next two years comparing the effectiveness of ten test paints recently applied to the hull of the San Diego-based M/V Newport Hornblower.
"We're doing some experimental painting," said Jim Unger, vice president of Hornblower Cruises and Events. "Traditionally, bottom paint has had toxins – either heavy metals or other biocides – that get into the water system. What we're doing here is experimenting with paints that have very little, or none, of either."
The Port of San Diego has partnered with Hornblower on the study, which responds to a 1996 San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board report identifying high levels of dissolved copper in Shelter Island Yacht Basin waters. Boaters commonly use copper antifouling paints to prevent marine organism growth on boat hulls.
"The downside to using these copper paints is that the copper leaches off boat hulls and gets into the water column," said Karen Holman, environmental specialist with the Port of San Diego. "At that point, it becomes potentially toxic to the marine organisms in the water and becomes a water quality problem."
While testing also is taking place on smaller recreational boats, Hornblower's participation allows researchers to perform side-by-side comparisons of the alternative paints. It also provides an educational opportunity: Hornblower is promoting the project as part of its company-wide Respect Our Planet program. Whale watching and bay cruise guests will learn about the study and related environmental initiatives through interactive exhibits aboard the M/V Adventure Hornblower.
"What's great is that this will actually be promoted through pictures and videos on Hornblower's daily cruises,” said Unger. “We appreciate the opportunity to educate our guests, and we encourage them to make environmentally responsible choices in their own lives.”