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Eco-Friendly Boating

Marine Conservation Home / NEXT: Sustainable Ecotourism »

You love to be on the water, you love the marine environment, so why not make sure you do what's necessary to keep it healthy and clean? Though you may not think your boat makes much of an impact, think of all the millions of vessels out there with you.

Here are just a few tips:

TRASH and TOXINS

• Properly dispose of all waste and litter, including sewage.

• Don't throw any trash overboard, particularly fishing line and plastics, which take centuries to decompose and are deadly for marine life who get tangled in it or confuse it for food. Additionally, the ocean is contaminated with literal tons of microscopic plastic. For more information visit the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, an organization that has conducted research on plastic pollution in the marine environment.

• According to the Ocean Conservancy, the biggest ocean and coastal pollution offenders, aka the "dirty dozen" are:

1) cigarette butts
2) paper pieces
3) plastic pieces
4) styrofoam
5) glass pieces
6) plastic food bags
7) plastic caps and lids
8) metal beverage cans
9) plastic straws
10) glass beverage bottles
11) plastic beverage bottles
12) styrofoam cups

• As with SCUBA diving, take only pictures, leave only bubbles.

• Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - take advantage of marinas that provide facilities for recycling oil, aluminum, glass, plastic, and antifreeze.

• Keep reusable items such as plates, silverware, cups and glasses onboard to reduce waste.

• Note for most trash items, it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, aluminum cans, for example take 200-500 years to decompose.

• Do not spill petroleum products or "top off" the tanks. A single quart of oil can create an oil slick as large as three football fields and remain in the area for up to two years.

• Use as little detergent as possible for cleaning, and always use non-phosphate and non-toxic products. Don't use toxic cleaners on your vessel. Use products like those from the commonly available Simple Green, Seaside Naturals, or TRAC Ecological Marine Products.

• Don't use toxic paint. There are environmentally friendly, yet durable marine anti-fouling paints available such as those manufactured by Ecological Coatings.

BOATING

Protect the shoreline from erosion and preserve aquatic vegetation:

• Reduce throttle to “no wake” speed when close to shore.

• Don't operate in shallow water where you risk stirring up bottom sediment or destroying aquatic plants.

• Avoid importing alien species by draining the bilge and cleaning the prop before leaving a waterway.

SAVE FUEL

• Slower speeds = less fuel
• Reduce drag as much as possible
• Avoid idling
• Minimize the use of onboard generators
• Know exactly where you're going
• Keep the hull clean
• Keep the engine tuned

DON'T DRINK and BOAT

Boating and drinking alchohol seem to go hand in hand. When you drink, physiological changes to your body can impair your ability to maintain your safety and the safety of others.

• Alcohol reduces inhibition and impairs good judgment. The more relaxed you become, the less vigilant you will be about safety. You might even behave irresponsibly and put yourself or others at risk.

• Alcohol erodes your sense of balance, increasing the risk of accidents on the boat of of falling into the water.

• Your vision is negatively affected. Color and depth perception and peripheral vision deteriorate, creating the risk of striking other boats, swimmers, or marine life, particularly at night.

• Your coordination is impaired, if you or another passenger were to fall into the water, your ability to float, grab a life ring or other flotation device, and ability to stay warm are all decreased.

For an excellent resource for information on Boating Under the Influence, visit the US Coast Guard's site on boating safety.

And if you have additional ideas and suggestions for clean and safe boating, please send them to us and we'll be happy to add them to the list.

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