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Reasons to give thanks for the holidays

As an avid boater and angler, I’m a conservationist and an environmentalist, albeit not one of those raving activists that are more unconnected from reality than Willy Wonka in a chocolate factory. Still, I am one to applaud the good news of actions that can legitimately protect our oceans and waterways.

Such is the case of the unprecedented $40 million fine being assessed against Princess Cruise Lines (owned by Carnival Corp.) for illegally dumping oil-contaminated water from the Caribbean Princess.

The company was charged by federal prosecutors with seven felonies after a multiyear investigation, triggered by a whistleblower, disclosed ship engineers deliberately polluted the environment, falsified records meant to satisfy inspectors and undermined the ship’s required monitoring system. Prosecutors are convinced there have been many other instances where this ship spewed pollution into waters from Texas on up the East Coast.

“We’re sending a strong message with this case to the entire industry,” assistant attorney general John C Cruden told the Miami Herald. “The message is that lying to the U.S. Coast Guard and polluting the marine environment will be identified, investigated and prosecuted.”

Where does the money go? With expected federal court approval, $10 million of the $40 million will be redirected to community service programs that benefit the marine environment. In addition, Carnival will undergo five years of court-supervised environmental-compliance monitoring aboard 78 of the corporation’s 101 cruise ships. (Why 23 Carnival-owned ships are excluded is unclear, but likely those ships never sail to U.S. ports.)

Bottom line: We’ve begun to recognize, as never before, the value of our oceans and waterways the absolute need for good stewardship. Reader John Page Williams insightfully asked: “How do we keep pressure on cleanup & restoration programs over the long haul?” Certainly one step is to act against and keep public focus on the consequences for those that would scheme to pollute. So a well-deserved shout-out to the good news these investigators and prosecutors delivered in this case.

More good news

With the opening of our critical winter boat shows now just 30 days away (Houston and Denver open Jan. 6), we couldn’t ask for good economic news to come at a better time. Put these facts in your Christmas stocking:

  • The Conference Board last week reported that consumer confidence jumped to a nine-year-high of 107.1 in November. It’s being manifested in continued solid growth in consumer spending, the primary driver of the economy.
  • The U.S. economy in the third quarter grew at the fastest pace in two years. The all-important GDP expanded at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the July-September period, according to the Commerce Department. That’s up from a previous estimate of 2.9 percent and dramatically better than the gains of 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 1.4 percent in the second quarter.
  • The critical housing market is rolling, too. Existing-home sales increased in all major regions in the U.S. in September. Housing starts rose in October by 25.5 percent, the biggest increase in nine years. U.S. home prices have climbed back above the record reached more than a decade ago. Home prices jumped 5.5 percent in 2016. The average value of a house in the U.S. that sank to $134,000 in 2008 is now back to prerecession levels at $184,000. And new home starts rose 10.7 percent, the most since October 2007.

Consistent job gains and affordable mortgage rates are certainly contributing to the housing recovery, National Marine Manufacturers Association president Thom Dammrich said. “And this is all great news for boating. Housing has been the one thing holding us back and that resistance may be dissipating now.”

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