Before you take to the waters this summer, take time to check your boater registration, license expiration date and the health of your watercraft. Maintaining your boat properly ensures your activities are safe for you and the environment. A few tips to keep your boat in shape while protecting natural ecosystems in our lakes and streams follow:
Unlawful Disposal: Dumping Overboard
One of the most irresponsible, and expensive, actions boaters should avoid is dumping trash and debris overboard. All states establish their own environmental regulations regarding water activities. In the Gulf of Mexico, you could forfeit your Texas, Mississippi or Alabama boat license if you drop trash, scrap food, human waste or plastic into the water.
Photo of boating on the Gulf of Mexico by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via Flickr
The Coast Guard has authority under international convention (MARPOL) guidelines to enforce environmental regulations on all inland water ways and within three miles of the shoreline. They take their responsibility to protect these natural resources seriously. Under the Marine Pollution Act, convicted boat owners face up to $25,000 in civil penalties, up to $50,000 in fines and up to five years in prison for pollution, according to the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance.
Debris in the water creates hazards for fish and other creatures. Birds and fish eat small pieces of trash, which can cause bloating and death. Floating trash is responsible for damage to boats when it gets trapped in water intakes and entangled in propellers, too. Never dump anything overboard that didn’t come from the water you are currently navigating—it isn’t worth it.
Clean Before You Leave
To protect lakes and rivers from cross-contamination, boat owners and operators must clean, drain and thoroughly dry their vessel before they leave a body of water. Invasive aquatic species live in mud, grass and leaves, and water.
The best way to prevent the spread of invasive species is to remove water and other residue from anything that touched the water during your recreational activities. That includes pets, boat trailers, camping equipment and fishing gear. You can find detailed cleaning guidelines at the Protect Your Waters website.
Practice Eco-Efficient Cleaning Routines
Avoid cleaning and repair duties while your boat is in the water as much as possible. If maintenance issues won’t wait until you can get your vehicle in the boatyard, follow the tips below to minimize waste and the potential for negative impact.
- Use tarps and vacuum sanders to protect the water from spills and debris during patching and repainting for repair projects.
- Collect all fluid drips for later disposal.
- Use low-toxicity cleaners that are water based and biodegradable.
Spending time on the water is relaxing, rejuvenating and just plain fun. Developing responsible habits toward the environment protects the natural resources so we can continue to enjoy water sports for years to come.