Giant cruise ships filled with tourists will no longer float past St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco, in Venice after Italy put the kibosh on the longtime practice to protect the lagoon in which the city sits. Starting Aug. 1, cruise liners or other large ships, including yachts, that weigh more than 25,000 tons, are longer than about 590 feet, are taller than 115 feet, or use a certain amount of fuel while maneuvering, won't be allowed in the Giudecca Canal that leads to the main part of the city. It's a move sought for years by locals to protect the lagoon, reports the New York Times. Critics say the ships pollute the waters, cause potential harm to Venice's buildings—large waves from the ships rock structures' foundations, per France 24—and disrupt its ecosystem. Reuters notes that smaller passenger ferries and watercraft that bear goods will still be permitted in the canal.
The government made its decision after UNESCO warned it would place the city on its list of endangered heritage sites, which includes such locations as Everglades National Park in the US. "We finally seem to have got there," says the head of activist group No Grandi Navi (No Big Ships), which has been pushing back against the practice for more than 10 years, per the Guardian. The Italian government recently OKed a decree for constructing a terminal outside the lagoon where large vessels like cruise ships can park. While that's being put together, ships have been told to dock in Marghera—tourists can access Venice from there by bus, train, taxi, or car—but that port doesn't yet have a place for larger cruise ships to berth. Critics of the ban say it will hurt Venice's tourism industry. "Limiting the passage of ships won't solve the difficulties of Venice as a city," the head of a shipping lobby in Italy tells Reuters. (Read more Venice stories.)