There are simple things every boater can do to help protect the ocean. Water quality and marine resources are negatively impacted by boat sewage, gray water, cleaning products, spilled fuel, litter, introduction of invasive organisms and physical damage from boats and boat anchors. The majority of these impacts can be avoided by following best management practices on the water. In many cases US and local laws require these protective measures.
Boat collisions are one of the leading causes of manatee deaths in Florida. Aquatic vegetation and sea grass can be damaged by boat propellers and wakes. Damage to these areas leads to shoreline erosion, destroys refuge, nursery habitat and a food supply for marine life. Sea grasses help maintain water quality and reduce erosion.
Actions you can take:
In Florida: Report manatee, dolphin and marine turtle injuries, deaths, tag sightings or harassment to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-DIALFMP
Exotic plant and sea life may become attached to vessels and trailers and can accidently be introduced to waterways. Once introduced, exotics spread quickly and are difficult and expensive to control. When exotic plants and sea life spread, they contribute to the degradation of water quality and fish and wildlife habitat by outcompeting native species and by blocking light needed by submerged aquatic plants.
In Florida: report new infestations of nonnative plant and sea life species to the Bureau of Invasive Plant Management: 850-488-5631.
Species to watch out for include: Hydrilla, Water Hyacinth and Zebra Mussel.
Source: Clean Boating Habits, Clean Boater, Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Large quantities of fish waste where water circulation is restricted can deplete the water of dissolved oxygen, leading to water quality degradation and fish kills. This is a problem in marinas with a large number of fish landings or fish landings with poor flushing. “Fish feeding” with bait or cleaned fish similarly load basins with nutrients, but can also disrupt the feeding behavior of wild animals and spread diseases among them. Disposing of fish waste in the marina also may attract unwanted predators such as alligators.
What can you do?
Source: Clean Boating Habits, Clean Boater, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, www.dep.state.fl.us/cleanmarina
Cleaning products that contain chlorine, phosphates and ammonia have damaging impacts on water quality and marine life. Degreasers dry the natural oils fish need for the gills to take in oxygen. Cleaning methods that prevent and contain the release of pollutants to surface waters and the use of green cleaning products mitigate these impacts.
If you still want to opt for premixed cleaning products, green labeled products exist. Look for products that are biodegradable and free of phosphorus, chlorine and ammonia.
Reduce, reuse and recycle. Never let any trash go overboard. Federal laws prohibit any vessel from discharging plastics or garbage that contains plastics into any waters. Help clean up trash you do find in the water. Trash in the water can injure or kill sea life.
Typical hazardous wastes generated by boaters include solvent paint waste, used batteries, mercury containing bilge pump switches, used oil, old gasoline and out of date flares.
What you can do:
Untreated discharge from one boat puts the same amount of bacterial pollution into the water as the treated sewage of 10,000 people. Not only does this discharge cause human health problems including: typhoid, hepatitis, cholera and gastroenteritis, but it wreaks serious havoc on ocean life. Recent studies found human sewage is the direct cause white pox in Elkhorn coral. The disease kills this listed endangered species at a rate of four inches a day. Nutrient loads from sewage promote excessive algae growth in the ocean. Sewage reduces oxygen levels in the water that fish and aquatic species need to survive.
Find a pumpout station at a certified Clean Marina (US) or Blue Flag Marina (Internationally). Encourage marinas to participate in these programs and install pumpout stations.
Recommendations to reduce sewage discharge:
A single gallon of fuel can contaminate over a million gallons of water.
Actions you can take while fueling:
Actions you can take for bilge oil:
Report oil pollution to the State Warning Point in Florida at 1-800-320-0519
And the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802
Find Oil Recyclers by zip code at www.recycleoil.org or call 202-682-8000
International SeaKeepers Society
355 Alhambra Circle, Suite1100
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Telephone: 305-448-7089 ext. 141