Environmental-friendly boating practices help seafarers look beyond the bow and make a difference to maintain clean, healthy waters for years to come. Boating goes hand-in-hand with wildlife watching, swimming, fishing, snorkeling and diving—and each of these experiences is enhanced by the clean water required for a healthy bay. Unfortunately, mishandling a boat can be detrimental to marine ecosystems, wildlife and water quality. Improper handling, irresponsible or neglectful vessel maintenance, and poor refueling, repair and storage habits all present significant environmental risks. Reducing these risks not only helps preserve clean water and protect the animals that live in it, but also keeps boaters and their families safe – and can even save money!
Below, the experienced staff of Port Annapolis Marina lays out some best boating practices for a greener boating experience—practical steps you can use every time you hit the water. Learn more about how boaters can develop and incorporate environmentally friendly management strategies in six key areas:
- Oil and Fuel
- Sewage Pollution
- Vessel Maintenance and Repair
- Marine Debris
- Storm Water Runoff
- Vessel Operation
It’s important to realize you can make a tremendous difference and impact in preserving the health of the ocean and waterways!
Oil and Fuel
Diesel fuel and motor oil are toxic to people, plants and wildlife. They can also block life-giving sunlight in the water. Most oil pollution results from accidents and/or carelessness.
- Refueling is when most spills happen. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends filling the tank to only ninety-percent to capacity to reduce the chance of spills from overfilling.
- Even small oil spills spell trouble for water quality; bilge pumps can often discharge oil directly into the water. Be sure to use oil absorbent pads in the bilges of all boats with inboard engines.
- Inspect thru-hull fittings often. A sinking boat is not only a safety risk for passengers, but also leaks dangerous fuel, oil and chemicals into the water.
- DO NOT use soaps to disperse spills – it is ILLEGAL.
Think one boat doesn’t make a difference? A single overboard discharge of human waste in a shallow enclosed area like a bay can be detected across one square mile. Excess nutrients disrupt natural cycles and pose a human health hazard.
- Install and use a marine sanitation device as required by law.
- Sewage and chemicals from holding tanks readily contaminate water.
- Bring portable toilets ashore for proper disposal.
Vessel and Maintenance Repair
Sanding, cleaning, painting and degreasing boats can pose major threats to our waters. Particles of dust and paint in the water can block life-giving sunlight, and toxic substances from cleaners and antifouling compounds can sicken or kill marine life.
- Use nonhazardous materials—if it’s hazardous to you, it’s hazardous to the environment.
- Old batteries can leach dangerous lead or cadmium, and expired marine flares contain toxic materials as well so dispose of them properly.
- When you paint your hull, choose officially certified environmentally-friendly materials
Trash in the water isn’t just an eyesore; it damages boats and threatens the well-being of marine wildlife. It also undermines tourism and economic activities that create jobs. But there’s good news. Litter in the water is entirely preventable.
- Bring your food containers, cigarette butts and other trash back to shore and recycle them whenever possible.
- Let your marina know if it can provide better waste collection facilities.
- Boaters are known for being good stewards and routinely picking up trash. For greater impact, raise awareness and collect data on what’s out there by participating in programs like Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.
Storm Water Runoff
At marinas, storm drains can carry pollutants – including toxic metals from boat hull scraping and sanding, oil and grease, detergents, litter, and hazardous bilge waste – directly into the water.
- Use nontoxic cleaning products.
- Discard worn motor parts carefully so oil doesn’t wash from them into storm drains.
- Dispose of trash properly in onshore bins.
Marinas and individual boaters must play a role in reducing vessel operation damage. Vessel operation damage occurs whenever improper handling, irresponsible use or neglect of a vessel results in damages to the environment. The effects can be costly.
- Anchors aweigh: Choose anchor sites carefully and use proper techniques to avoid damaging sensitive habitat.
- Avoid boating in shallow water, where you can stir up sediments and disturb underwater habitat—not to mention damage your propeller, hull and engine if you run aground.
- Know where to go slow to prevent shore-damaging wakes.
Port Annapolis has been recognized by the Department of Natural Resources as a Certified Clean Marina, so if you have any questions about how you can be a greener boater, please contact us! We’re happy to point you in the right direction and get you connected to local organizations in Annapolis that support green initiatives and cleaner water. Happy boating!