Litter, such as plastics, not only ruins the natural beauty of our boating waterways and shorelines, it can also tangle boat props, clog intakes, and injure or kill aquatic life.
Solid waste such as bottles, cans, fishing line, plastic bags and other refuse can injure or kill aquatic life and birds by trapping or entangling them. You, as a boater, can be an active steward of this valuable resource by implementing these basic practices:
- Have a waste container on your boat. The best policy is to carry out what you carry in. You might consider going one step further and carry out any trash less thoughtful people may have left behind.
- Use recyclable containers and reusable bags. Minimize the use of plastic wrap and disposable bags while out on your boat.
- Don’t toss garbage, including cigarette butts, overboard.
- If rubbish blows overboard, make an effort to retrieve it.
- Recycle oil, batteries, plastic, metal, glass and newspaper.
- Recycle fishing line or dispose of it properly. Some marinas and sporting goods stores offer fishing line recycling.
- Use the marina recycling facility or take it home to place in your household recycle bin.
- Properly dispose of unwanted waste chemicals by utilizing the household hazardous waste collection program in your community.
- Clean up after your dog and deposit waste in a rubbish bin or appropriate receptacle.
Marine debris and beach litter are serious problems. Many types of marine life, including fish, dolphins, whales and seabirds often mistake plastics and other trash for food. Commonly mistaken items include cigarette butts, six-pack rings, plastic bags, discarded nets, Styrofoam, bottle caps, fishing line, and other refuse. In addition to eating these items, birds and mammals often feed them to their young. Either way, the result is the same – starvation, suffocation, or poisoning. Some types of debris, such as discarded nets, fishing tackle, and plastics also cause death by entanglement.
Every year, hundreds of diesel and oil spills pollute our harbours and coastline. Most are quite small, but even small amounts of fuel and oil can be fatal to birds and marine life and cause damage to the environment.
Because most of these spills are of very light oil, they quickly spread out into a thin film. This oily film is toxic, smells bad, fouls other boats, and contaminates shellfish and marine farms. Most oil and fuel spills can be contributed to careless refueling or pumping oily bilge water overboard.
Facts about fuel contamination:
- A single litre of fuel can contaminate over a million litres of water.
- One litre of used oil can form a 4000 m2 slick
- Oil is toxic to fish and water species. Prolonged exposure affects reproduction, growth and feeding of aquatic life, even at low concentrations.
- The majority of oil pollution in our rivers and oceans comes from everyday sources like refueling, engine emissions and oil leaks.
Refuelling your Boat
- Whenever possible, refuel at an approved refueling station where spill kits are available.
- Do not transfer fuel to your boat in containers.
- For safety, have all passengers disembark the vessel during petroleum refuelling
- Before you start refueling, estimate how much fuel you need in your tanks to prevent overflow
- Plug the scuppers with rags during refueling where possible.
- Keep sorbent materials on deck to mop up any spills
- Make sure a responsible adult monitors the entire refueling process. Don’t let children or untrained people refuel your boat.
- Never leave the fuel hose unattended while refuelling
- Use caution in filling your fuel tank to avoid spillage into the water
- Fit a vent whistle and listen to the tone while refuelling
- When fueling, avoid topping off or overfilling to reduce the risk of fuel overflowing from vents. Allow room for expansion in the tank.
- If you overfill your fuel tank, wipe it up with an absorbent rag. Do Not hose the fuel off into the water. Dispose of the contaminated rags responsibly.
Report spills immediately to the fuel station operator, marina operator and local Regional Council. The sooner the spill is reported the better chance there is of minimizing damage to the environment.
Cleaning and Greywater
Many boat cleaning and maintenance products contain chemicals that are poisonous, corrosive, flammable and/or chemically reactive.
When you purchase boat-cleaning products, take time to read the label. A signal word, such as “danger/poison,” “warning,” or “caution” can give you a general indication of the toxicity of a product. If you want more information on a product’s contents, ask your retailer or contact the manufacturer for the “Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).” The MSDS will list any constituents considered to be hazardous substances.
Greywater is the soapy water from boat galley sinks and showers, which is usually discharged overboard without treatment. The term is also used to describe the dirty rinse water created when washing a boat. The bleaches, detergents, and soaps used aboard may be the same as those you use at home. However, some boat cleaning products are even more caustic or corrosive than household cleaners. Liquid soaps and deck cleaners can contain a variety of toxins, including chlorine, inorganic salts, and metals. Greywater is often rich in phosphates, which pollute the water and encourage the growth of unwanted algae.
Even though household and boat cleaning products may be similar, the environmental impact of boat-generated greywater is worse for one simple reason. Home-generated shower, laundry, and dish water is diverted to the sanitary sewer system for treatment prior to being released into local waterways (unless you have a septic system). Boat-generated greywater is not! Most boats do not have the technology required for containing greywater in order to prevent its discharge. So, to minimize the impact of greywater on the marine environment, follow these clean and green solutions:
- Use shore-side facilities whenever possible. If you’re just out for a day trip, bring home any dirty dishes and take your shower at home to minimize the amount of greywater generated.
- Less is more. When washing the boat, use less product and more elbow grease. A quick freshwater rinse and scrub after each trip minimizes the need for harsh cleaners. When using cleaning products, use the smallest amount possible to get the job done.
- Use only phosphate-free and biodegradable soaps… Check the shelves of your local supermarket or marine supply store for alternative soaps. These products are no longer hard to find.
- An antifouling product is a paint or treatment that contains active compounds designed to keep marine vessels and structures free of organisms.
- These products work by preventing marine animals either from settling or successfully attaching onto surfaces painted with antifouling paints. Examples include TBT (tributyltin) and copper.
- The active compounds in antifouling paint are, by their nature, toxic to marine life. However, the products are designed to enter the marine environment in a controlled manner. Entry of antifouling products in uncontrolled manners, for example from spills or debris from maintenance, removal or application of these products, could have detrimental affects on marine organisms (including non-fouling plants and wildlife).
- All antifouling products must be registered with the National Registration Authority. The registration helps to ensure that aquatic environments, and the people who work with these products, do not become exposed to inappropriate chemicals.
- Measures should be taken to minimise the release of antifouling products to the surrounding environment. Using excessive abrasion or hosing on your boat may increase the release of the antifouling paint to the surrounding environment. All surfaces should be protected from over-spray through the use of tarpaulins and sheeting (the use of brushes or rollers are preferred to sprays). Do not allow run-off to enter waterways.
- Maintenance of small and large vessels should be conducted at an appropriate facility, either above the tidal zone, or in a dry dock. Coloured water should not be released to the marine environment.
- No removal of antifouling products should be undertaken while the vessel is in the water, on beaches or below the high tide limit. Do not burn off old antifouling paints— this may place both the operator and people nearby at risk (in the past many antifouling products used extremely hazardous chemicals).
- All antifouling paints should be treated as contaminated wastes. Scrapings and debris should be collected for disposal and stored in sealed containers until removed by licensed waste disposal contractors (or as otherwise specified by regulatory agencies).
The ocean is not a dump!
A treaty known as the Marine Pollution Act (MARPOL73/78) was enacted in 1973 and updated in 1978 to protect the ocean environment. As of March 2005, 130 countries, including New Zealand, have signed this international treaty. MARPOL 73/78 specifically prohibits the dumping of any plastics into the ocean or navigable waters
Thanks to www.cleanboating.org.nz for this information. Further instructions on clean and responsible boating can be found on their website.