This April 22nd marks the 52nd Earth Day!
Sparked by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, Earth Day has always had a strong connection to our oceans. We boaters pursue our pastime out of a love for the beauty of open waters, and we see first hand the threats they face.
As Earth Day approaches, let’s consider these tips for sustaining our oceans.
Ocean Conservancy reports that “Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments.” Help control the plastics problem by
- Reducing your use of plastics at home and on the water
- Participating in a coastal clean up
- Recycling your fishing line
- Connecting with organizations that are making our seas plastic-free
Recycling & Waste Disposal
It is always illegal to dispose of plastics, oil, and other hazardous wastes into the water, and food garbage and sewage cannot be released within three miles of shore. Make a bigger impact by:
- Buying in bulk and avoiding excessive packaging
- Discarding waste at onshore recycling and disposal facilities
It is more than likely that your vessel is powered by gasoline. Consider reducing your impact by:
- Purchasing a four-stroke engine to increase fuel-efficiency and reduce pollutants and noise. Two-stroke engines will dump 30% of their fuel and oil unburned into the water
- Preventing oil discharge
- Maintaining a well-tuned engine
- Conducting maintenance on land
- Fueling tanks slowly, using pads or rags to catch drips and spills
Beds of seagrass stabilize sediments and provide a habitat for a variety of marine creatures. Seagrasses are the dietary mainstay for manatees, sea turtles, and urchins, and these beds serve as nurseries for crab, fish, microbes, and shrimp. Avoid disturbing these areas by:
- Checking your nautical charts for areas marked in green or Grs, indicating seagrass
- Paying attention to tides (although some beds are in danger even at high tide)
- Looking for buoys, which mark the boundaries of some seagrass beds
- Reading the water—seagrass beds can appear as large dark areas under the water
- Knowing your boat’s operating depth, to the bottom of the propeller
- Tilting your motor out of the water and walking or poling your boat
- Anchoring in bare areas
When painting your vessel, use an alternative to antifouling paint, which leaches copper into the water, harming marine life. Of course, storing your boat out of the water is the best way to protect it and the water. Dry docking and boat lifts and floats provide great protection for your boat and the ecosystem.
Invasive species can migrate by grabbing a ride on your boat. Keep plants and animals where they belong by:
- Inspecting your boat as soon as you remove it from the water
- Draining the bilge tank and anything else that holds water
- Washing the boat completely with nontoxic products and letting it dry several days before putting in to a different body of water
When you have a hazardous waste spill or see others polluting, make a report to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center by calling 800-424-8802, which is staffed 24 hours a day.
Practice these eco-smart habits throughout the year and bring the spirit of Earth Day to every voyage!