Maintaining Your Boat
The waters, wetlands, and shores of Canada belong to everyone. We all have a responsibility to protect this priceless heritage by minimizing our impact on the aquatic environment. As part of its mandate to promote safety and protect the marine environment, Transport Canada is providing this guide for recreational boaters. We hope it will help you to enjoy our marine environment and to preserve Canada's unique coastal heritage.
Trash is one of the most visible kinds of pollution in our marine environment. An amazing range of refuse litters our shorelines - plastic bottles, pieces of styrofoam, garbage bags, discarded nets, cans, and so on. Plastic and other kinds of trash often trap, injure and kill aquatic life and birds. They also foul props or intake fittings on recreational vessels.
Oils, detergents, sewage, and toxic products carelessly discharged into the water are less visible forms of pollution, but they are equally dangerous to marine life. Fish, shellfish, sea birds, and other forms of aquatic life require a balance of nutrients, oxygen and clean water to survive. Even small quantities of toxic products in the water can disrupt this balance, with devastating effects.
Cleaning any boat - even a small one - can dirty a lot of water. Many cleaning products contain phosphates and other chemicals that are toxic to aquatic ecosystems. When you use these products, you get your boat clean, but you leave the grunge and pollutants behind in the marine environment. All soaps persist throughout the water column and are extremely harmful to aquatic life forms. The easiest way to keep phosphates and other toxic cleansers out of the water is to leave them at home.
Adding detergents to washing water produces grey water. Phosphates cause excessive algae growth in fresh water. When algae decompose, they rob water of oxygen and cause damage to fish and wildlife. Avoid discharging grey water into the environment.
Note: In Canada, manufacturers do not have to substantiate such claims as 'non polluting' and 'fully biodegradable.' Remember that all detergents - even those that call themselves "environment friendly" - or "green" - contain polluting phosphates and nitrates. The "Environmental Choice" logo indicates a degree of acceptability.
|Fiberglass||Baking soda and salt|
|Aluminum||1 Tbsp of cream of tartar in a half litre of hot water|
|Brass||Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and salt solution|
|Chrome||Vinegar and salt solution|
|Copper||Lemon juice and salt solution|
|Decks||1 part vinegar to 8 parts water|
|Hair||Baby shampoo (phosphate-free and Ph balanced)|
|Hands||Baby oil or margarine|
|Clear Plastic||1 part vinegar to 2 parts water|
|Mildew||Vinegar and salt solution|
|Shower||Wet the area, apply baking soda, and wipe|
|Windows||1 part vinegar to 2 parts water|
|Wood||Polish with olive oil|
|Chrome/metal||Polish with baby oil|
There are currently five systems for dealing with sewage on recreational and small fishing vessels.
Marine Sanitation Device - (MSD) Type I
Marine Sanitation Device - (MSD) Type II
Marine Sanitation Device - (MSD) Type III
Portable self-contained toilet
Over the side
Holding tanks are a good idea, but they may require pump-out facilities ashore. If possible, avoid disinfectants, which usually contain harsh chemicals.
Tips for Pumping Out
Taking Charge of Sewage waste
Discharging sewage is prohibited in some Canadian waters. Please consult the Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and for Dangerous Chemicals to find out where.
Diesel, gas, and petroleum lubricants are harmful for the environment. Boat engines, automatic bilge pumps, fuel handling facilities, and accidents are responsible for spilling a great quantity of oil and fuel. The tremendous volume of hydrocarbon and oil pollution entering North America's waters every year from recreational boating is estimated to be more than 15 times the amount of the Exxon Valdez spill (up to one billion litres per year).
Two-stroke engines are the most important source of a persistent form of pollution that has devastating effects on the aquatic environment. An estimated 30 percent of all fuel and oil used in two-stroke engines ends up in the water. Exhaust fumes from both two- and four-stroke engines are of concern because these engines usually lack any form of emission control.
There are approximately three million pleasure craft in Canada, most with two-stroke engines. Taken individually, their impact may be small; collectively it is a major concern. Manufacturers around the world are responding to this concern by developing four-stroke marine engines, lean-burn two-stroke engines, and fuel injection systems, which greatly reduce the amount of oil and fuel entering the water and air emissions.
Bilges are a major source of marine pollution because bilges tend to collect engine oil, fuel, anti-freeze, and transmission fluid, to name only a few pollutants. When these fluids are pumped overboard, usually by automatic bilge pumps, they have a major negative environmental impact. Bilge cleaners, even the biodegradable ones, merely emulsify or break down the oil into tiny, less visible droplets. This process spreads the fluids over a greater volume of water and severely inhibits all forms of marine life from mammals, to fish, to plants, to algae. Absorbent "bilge pillows" are extremely useful because they are designed to absorb petroleum products and repel water.
Here are some ways to keep pollution from bilges to a minimum.
When fuelling your boat, use extra caution and avoid any spills. Raw fuel is extremely harmful to the marine environment. Be prepared to deal with any spill quickly and effectively. It is the law. Never fuel a boat by yourself.
Here are some suggestions for safe fuelling.
Most antifouling bottom paints are harmful to marine life. The newest coatings are formulated to have a less toxic and less long-lasting effect. There are three main types in use: ablative, non-ablative, and hard antifouling. The hard antifouling type is the most environmentally friendly. It has extended antifouling properties with limited leaching or sloughing of toxic metals into the marine environment.
Beaches are fascinating places, especially when the tide goes out, but the organisms that live on beaches have a difficult existence. As the daily tide falls and rises, these organisms often experience severe changes in temperature, light, salinity, and oxygenation. Human activity can destroy delicate shore habitats for small marine organisms. So take care. A single rock provides shelter for clams, crabs, fish, periwinkles, tube worms, and a growing space for barnacles and seaweeds.
When exploring the flora and fauna of a beach:
We all enjoy a stroll and a campfire on the beach, especially at the end of a boat trip. It's important to ensure that others have the same opportunity to share an unspoiled experience. After visiting a beach, you should leave little or no trace of your presence.
The coast has many marine areas that are especially sensitive to boating and to people. These areas include seal haul-outs, bird rookeries, whale-watching sites, estuaries, wetlands, and aquaculture sites. Boaters must make special efforts to avoid inadvertently harming these areas and the animals that depend on them.
Otters and harbour, fur and California seals often congregate on log booms and small rocky islets. Avoid disturbing the animals at or near these haul-outs.
Many marine birds such as gulls, cormorants, puffins, and auklets nest on small islands, cliffs, and beach shorelines. During the nesting season, these sites are extremely sensitive to disturbance by humans, and a chick that leaves the protection of its nest and its parents has little or no chance of surviving. Most of these sites are designated as ecological reserves. They are legally protected from human intrusion.
You can help protect these areas.
Whale Watching Sites
Canada is fortunate in having three coasts and the Gulf of St. Lawrence that provide diverse habitats for a variety of whales, from the spectacular Orcas to the Great Blue whale. Because whale-watching has become so popular, we need to take care not to disturb these wonderful creatures. It is against the law to disturb whales or approach them too closely. Quiet craft such as canoes and kayaks can frighten or surprise an unsuspecting mammal.
Here are some tips on good whale watching etiquette.
Estuaries and Wetlands
Any type of shoreline is affected by the presence of boats and people, but estuaries and wetlands are particularly sensitive to disturbance.
These areas are typically low-energy, mud or sand flats located at the mouth of fresh-water creeks and rivers. The interface between land, river, and sea creates a highly productive environment for vegetation, fish, birds, and mammals. Even the smallest estuary or wetland has significant ecological importance. They are a joy to visit, but take special care not to damage them.
The farming of fish and shellfish is a growing industry on Canada's coasts. In many cases, the livelihood of individuals and whole communities depends on protecting aquaculture sites and facilities. Often boaters share areas such as oyster grow-outs located on beaches and oyster long-lines and salmon farms located within sheltered coves
Shellfish leases are highly sensitive to contamination from human fecal waste. Farm salmon are sensitive to boat noise and wash. Look for stakes or cement blocks and signs marking shore bases aquaculture leases. Water-based leases are marked by large, round yellow buoys. Treat these operations with respect and consideration.
Do your part to protect water-based fish farms and shellfish leases.
Boating can affect the marine environment in ways that may seem minor but they can be a nuisance to other boaters. These annoyances include boat wash, engine and other noise and engine emissions. Their impact can travel a long distance over water. Help make the aquatic environment pleasant for others.
Reduce Boat Wash
The barnacle-like zebra mussel poses a multibillion dollar threat to North America's industrial, agricultural, and municipal water supplies. It could also become a costly nuisance for freshwater shipping, for fishing, and for shellfish harvesting as well. The zebra mussel was first found in the Great Lakes in 1988, and it is invading other waters. You can help prevent it from becoming more widespread and invading other inland lakes and rivers by flushing your engine and by ensuring that hull, machinery and bait-wells are free of zebra mussels.
How to Identify the Zebra Mussel
Zebra mussels look like small clams with a yellowish or brownish D-shaped shell, usually with alternating dark and light-coloured stripes (hence the name). They can be up to 5 cm (2') long, but most are under 2.5 cm (1"). They inhabit shallow, algae-rich water and usually grow in clusters. Zebra mussels are the only freshwater mollusks that can firmly attach themselves to solid objects - boat hulls, submerged rocks, dock pilings, etc.
What to Do If You Think the Water is Infested with Zebra Mussels
This perennial plant is exceedingly vigorous and displaces many native water plants. It chokes fresh waters; obstructs swimming, boating, and fishing; and impedes flood control, water conservation, and irrigation. Boats appear to be the source of contamination. In Canada, the infestation is confined at present to fresh water.
What to Do if You Think Your Boat Has Been in Contact with Eurasian Watermilfoil
If you notice someone polluting the water with oil, garbage or other pollutants, either accidentally or with willful intent, report it immediately. Polluters are required to report any oil spill to the Coast Guard without delay. They are responsible for the costs of clean up and could be subject to heavy fines and penalties. In areas with Coast Guard communications services, use Channel 16, VHF Marine radio.
Who Should You Call
BC and Yukon: 1-800-889-8852
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northwest Territories, Arctic: 1-800-265-0237
What Kind of Response Can You Expect?
When you contact Coast Guard, a "fan out" call goes to the persons and agencies responsible for cleaning up pollution and enforcing pollution controls. These include provincial authorities and private agencies. You can help by supplying information over the phone or VHF radio. A Coast Guard officer may investigate and initiate clean-up action.
How Can You Help?
You may be asked some of the following questions.
Canadian Regulations prohibit dumping garbage or discharging pollutants in Canadian waters. Most of the air pollution regulations do not affect recreational vessels, but boaters should be aware of the regulation that prohibits the discharge of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are found in 'Halon' type fire extinguishers.
Like Canada, the United States regulates the discharge of pollutants.
Note: It is illegal to dump untreated sewage anywhere within the US three-mile territorial limit. In other protected waters, this limit is extended.