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FYI Magazine

Protect the environment with safe boating

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Recreational boating reaches its peak when the weather warms up and people take to waterways in droves. Spending a day on the water enjoying the scenery or trying your luck at fishing are popular pastimes.
 
Following proper boating practices and etiquette can protect everyone onboard. Although ensuring passenger safety should be a priority, safeguarding against environmental impacts while boating also should be a concern.
 
Marinas and various marine areas can become contaminated with pollutants generated from boating activities. Boat cleaning, fueling and marine head discharge are just a few of the pollutants that can find their ways into the water. A past study in the marine reserve of Cape Creus in the Mediterranean Sea found that boat anchoring also is a considerable threat to marine habitats, as vulnerable ecologies can be damaged by anchors.
 
Although there are regulations in place to protect marine life and ecosystems, these rules aren't always adhered to. Recreational boaters can do their part to keep oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes pristine by adhering to some sound advice.
  • Reduce engine exhaust. Whenever possible, row, paddle or use sails to decrease engine use and subsequent exhaust. When engines must be used, do not idle unnecessarily. Always steer clear of the aft of the boat, where fuel fumes and carbon monoxide can cause serious health implications.
  • Keep trash on the vessel. Do not discard any items over the side of the boat. Even seemingly harmless items can impact the environment. Store garbage in a bag and dispose of it properly when you return to the marina or dock. Secure items onboard so they will not blow off and end up in the water.
  • Avoid antifouling paints. Antifouling paints are special paints applied to the underside of vessels to prevent or slow down the growth of barnacles and other organisms. Maritime New Zealand notes that these paints can harm other sea life and prove dangerous when scraped off and not discarded properly.
  • Keep boats in proper working order. Poorly maintained boats may harm the environment. Inefficiently working engines can produce more exhaust and contaminate the air and water. Oil and other mechanical fluids can leak into the water and affect the marine environment. Proper maintenance helps keep boats safe and minimizes their impact on the environment.
  • Use pump-out stations. Pump out stations at marinas enable boaters to safely dispose of the contents from sanitary systems without waste ending up in the water. Commercial ships, such as tankers and bulk cargo carriers, have the added threat of ballast water. Ballast water keeps vessels buoyant. However, when this water is discharged at the next port of call, it can transfer biological materials, like bacteria and plants, from foreign waters. These materials can compromise the integrity of ecological systems.
  • Respect marine ecosystems. Boaters who plan to enter the water and explore should tread delicately. Coastal areas often play home to birds and other wildlife. Use caution around reefs and habitats.
Safe boating involves following the rules of the water and also keeping marine environments clean and protected.