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Water Quality

Boating and Marine Activities

Boating and Marine Activities > Solutions > Resources and Links

Boating and Marine Activities

photo of sail boat   Boat operation and maintenance, discharge of sewage and grey water from vessels, and aquaculture operations are all sources of fresh and marine water NPS pollution. Although national legislation prohibits the discharge of garbage and pollutants from ships into Canadian waters, the legislation does not apply to sewage discharges in most locations. Sewage discharges in shallow, enclosed waters with poor flushing can impair water quality and recreational water use, and raise health concerns if the receiving waters are used for drinking water, swimming, or support shellfish.

Under the Canada Shipping Act, the Pleasure Craft Sewage Prevention Regulation mandates that any pleasure craft with toilet facilities must have sewage retention capabilities (holding tanks) to prevent sewage discharge when operating in designated waterbodies. This designation is important for waterbodies where high quality water is needed for fish/shellfish, swimming, or drinking water. There are currently 17 designated freshwater and marine areas in BC:

  • Okanagan Lake
  • Mara Lake
  • Shuswap Lake
  • Christina Lake
  • Mansons Landing and Gorge Harbour, Cortes Island
  • Horsefly Lake
  • Montague Harbour, Galiano Island
  • Kalamalka Lake
  • Pilot Bay, Gabriola Island
  • Pilot Bay, Kootenay Lake
  • Prideux Haven, Northeast of Lund
  • Stuart Lake
  • Roscoe Bay, West Redonda Island
  • Carrington Bay, Cortes Island
  • Smuggler Cove, West-Southwest of Halfmoon Bay
  • Cortes Bay, Cortes Island
  • Squirrel Cove, Cortes Island

More marine areas are expected to be designated in the future.

Many commercial marinas are sources of NPS pollution caused by discharges of sewage, food waste, fish cleanings, bilge and ballast water release, and other materials associated with boat and ship yard maintenance. Maintenance can cause new paint, old paint scrapings, anti-foulants, solvents, oil and grease, fuels, and cleaning agents to enter surrounding waters. Vessel traffic and dredging activity in marinas and in shallow navigation channels can churn up sediments, reintroducing metals, nutrients, organic matter and toxins into the water. Creosoted pilings are a source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that may be significant in such confined areas.

aerial photo of commercial marina

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A significant proportion of the non-point source pollution inputs from boating activities can be avoided through individual efforts. Follow these tips to protect the waterbodies where you enjoy boating:

  • Install a holding tank to avoid dumping sewage directly into designated waters.
  • Use shore based holding tank pump-out stations.
  • Use shoreside toilet facilities as much as possible.
  • If no pump-out facilities are available, only release sewage in open waters which are not designated and that have good tidal flushing action. Do not release sewage near marinas or in bays, inlets and other sensitive areas such as shellfish leases.
  • Create the demand for permanent or mobile pump-out facilities by letting marinas know you need the service and will use it.
  • Do not throw trash overboard. Use shoreside recycling and garbage bins.
  • Use biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaners instead of harmful chemical cleaners to clean the inside and outside of your boat. Alternatives are provided in the following table:
photo of boats in marina
To Clean: Use:
fibreglass baking soda and salt (in water)
aluminum 1 Tbsp 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
toilet baking soda
windows 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water
wood polish with olive oil
chrome / metal polish with baby oil
bleaching hydrogen peroxide
scouring baking soda slurry

    (source: Canadian Coast Guard, Office of Boating Safety — Protecting BC's Aquatic Environment)

  • Conduct major maintenance chores on land.
  • When maintaining your boat, use drop cloths to catch scrapings, paint chips, debris and drips and dispose of materials properly.
  • Consider alternatives to antifouling paints.
  • Keep motors well maintained and tuned to prevent fuel and lubricant leaks.
  • Consider installing 4-stroke engines which are less polluting than 2-stroke engines. Use electric motors where practical.
  • Use absorbent bilge pads to soak up minor oil and fuel leaks or spills.
  • Report any spills to the Provincial Spill Reporting program at 1-800-OILS-911.
  • Recycle used lubricating oil and leftover paints.
  • Apply to the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection for designation of waterbodies you are concerned about.
  • Peer pressure is often the best method of improving practices. Help educate fellow boater.

The Canadian Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety is an excellent source of information for all boaters.

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Resources and Links

Tackling Non-Point Source Water Pollution in British Columbia: An Action Plan. 1999. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (now Water, Land and Air Protection).

Protecting the Aquatic Environment. Canadian Coast Guard, Pacific Region.

Smoke on the Water. Environment Canada.

Clean Water. Environment Canada.

National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Marinas and Recreational Boating. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water.

Nonpoint Pointer No. 9 — Managing Nonpoint Source Pollution from Boating and Marinas. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Clean Marinas — Clear Value. 1996. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Boating Pollution Prevention Tips. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Coastal Pollution Prevention Resource List. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan.

Pollution Prevention and Best Management Practices for Marine Facilities. Broward County, Florida. Department of Planning and Environmental Protection.

California Clean Boating Network.

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