An Earth Day Guide to Responsible Boating

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An Earth Day Guide to Responsible Boating

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”

—Jane Goodall

You bought your boat to experience the peace, beauty, and abundant recreational opportunities that South Florida offers. You’re not alone. The passion for the sea you share with more than 950,000 registered Florida  boat owners presents an immediate opportunity to make a significant and lasting impact on the world.

On this April 22, the 49th anniversary of Earth Day, we urge you to consider some alarming facts as you plan and provision your next boating adventure, and look for ways to make a difference:

  • More than 80% of the plastic manufactured since 1907 is currently circulating in the environment, eventually making its way from landfills, rivers, and streams into our oceans. Nearly half of the plastic ever produced was manufactured in just the last 20 years. Here in the U.S., we recycle less than 9% of what we use. 
  • 40% of all the plastic manufactured in the world is used only once – usually for packaging.
  • Almost one million plastic bottles are sold every minute worldwide. Americans alone purchase a staggering 111 billion plastic bottles every year, which will last in the environment for up to 450 years.
  • According to National Geographic, nearly 18 BILLION pounds of plastic accumulates in the world’s oceans every year. If it could all be collected, it would represent five grocery bags full of plastic trash sitting on every single foot of every single coastline worldwide. 
  • UNESCO estimates that more than 100,000 marine mammals die as a result of plastic pollution every year, and increasing numbers of fish, birds, turtles, dolphins, and whales are washing up dead on beaches with their bellies full of plastic.
  • Plastic, the biggest polluter of all, isn’t the only thing fouling our oceans. Hazardous waste including spilled oil, diesel, or gas as well as paint, cleaning supplies, and microbeads contained in some cosmetics literally poison our waters and threaten marine life. 

Marine debris isn’t an ocean problem or a plastic problem. It’s a people problem that’s grown beyond just cleanup. We created it, so we can solve it. And responsible boaters like you can help lead the way.

How?

Make just a few basic changes in your behavior, and set an example for your guests, crew, and fellow boaters about how to respect and preserve our unique marine environment.


Shop and cook differently

We’ve become addicted to convenience. Nearly everything we consume -- from chips to shampoo to engine oil--comes packaged in single-serving, single-use plastic containers. Sure, that makes things easy to pack and carry, but it also makes those products much more expensive and contributes untold tons of trash to local landfills. 

  • Take a look at the product-to-packaging ratio of the things you need, and choose larger containers to reduce plastic waste.
  • Browse the bulk bins in your local supermarket. You’ll be amazed at the variety. Consider buying snacks, cereal, nuts, grains, flour, coffee, tea, spices, or other foods in bulk – then repackage what you’ll need for your voyage.
  • Instead of plastic bags, store your bulk items and dry goods in mason jars or stackable food storage containers you can wash and re-use.
  • Choose fresh, rather than canned or packaged foods when you can. Rather than a bag of salad or chopped broccoli, or a plastic box of potato salad or coleslaw, buy fresh produce -- then prepare and store it yourself.
  • Say no to individually wrapped slices of cheese or cold cuts packaged in plastic packaging. Buy meats and cheeses by weight at the deli counter. Either bring your own storage containers, or ask that your purchase be wrapped in paper.

Image 0504: Choose durable over disposableChoose “durable” over “disposable.” 

  • Invest in personal thermal mugs, steel or glass water bottles, and steel or silicone drinking straws – and encourage your guests and crew to bring their own. 
  • Buy a set of permanent dishes and silverware to keep on the boat. Resist the temptation to use plastic-coated or Styrofoam picnic ware, drink cups, or plastic cutlery.
  • Make mealtimes aboard fun for the kids by allowing them to choose and take care of their own personal cup, plate, cutlery, and towels.
  • While paper towels and napkins are convenient, using cloth reduces onboard trash and might just offer your family and guests a more elegant experience.
  • Carry your own shopping and food storage bags to the grocery store with you. You can find durable canvas, hemp, bamboo, or cotton mesh bags to replace those plastic single-use bags in the produce aisle or at the checkout counter.
  • Instead of buying drinking water by the case, swap those individual 8-ounce bottles for a large capacity jug you can refill at the tap. If you’re concerned about water quality, it’s easy to find water filter systems for everything from refillable bottles and pitchers to your entire boat or home. 
  • Countertop soda cartridge machines like SodaStream™ offer a great alternative to commercially produced soft drinks in cans or plastic bottles that take up valuable space onboard. You can easily make your own flavored syrups at home– even root beer and ginger ale – without the sugar, preservatives, or chemical additives found in popular brands. 

Dispose of all your waste responsibly. 

Know the regulations:

  • Plastics: It is illegal, under State, Federal, and International law to dispose of plastic into the sea at any time for any reason. 
  • Garbage: If you are within 3 miles of shore, it is illegal to dump any trash or garbage, or discharge sewage, at any time for any reason. If you are beyond 3 miles, you may discharge ground food waste and empty your holding tank.
    If your boat is longer than 26 feet, the Coast Guard requires you to display a durable, 4 x 9-inch waste management placard to inform your crew and passengers about garbage restrictions. If your boat is 40 feet or longer, you must also keep a written waste management plan on file with your boat documents.
  • Oil and other hazardous substances: It is illegal to discharge oil or other hazardous substances into the water at any time for any reason. If your boat is longer than 26 feet, you must also display a durable 5 x 8-inch placard somewhere in your engine space that spells out the regulations.

Follow the rules:

  • Separate your garbage, and keep food waste, plastics, cans, and paper trash in separate containers for easier disposal and recycling ashore. Don’t let anything fly overboard.
  • If space is an issue, tear or shred paper, crush cans, and cut up plastic. Keep all refuse on board in secure cans or bags until you can properly dispose of it ashore. For longer voyages, consider buying a portable hand-held trash compactor to save space. 
  • Keep all hazardous materials (oil, oily rags, paint, batteries, solvents, etc.) in a bucket or container until you can dispose of them appropriately, either at your marina or local waste disposal site. In case of a spill, contact the USCG National Response Center (800-424-8802) and notify the State Watch Office (800-320-0519).

Image 0502: Earth Day tip respect the life around youRespect the Life Around You.

Dolphins, porpoise, green sea turtles and manatees are delightful cruising companions, and it’s illegal to harass, hunt, or kill any of them or damage their habitats.

State and Federal law protects all marine life, manatees, in particular. Please respect the manatee protection zone requirements and watch your speed and depth near those zones. Any boater who disrupts a manatee’s normal behavior can be fined up to $50,000 and might spend a year in prison. 

Sea grass stabilizes sediments on the sea bottom and removes nutrients from the water column that help other species to flourish. Manatees and green sea turtles feed almost exclusively on sea grass. It’s also a haven for other marine species who depend on it for food, shelter, shade, and raising their young. Check your navigation charts or program to avoid cruising through or anchoring in those sea grass beds marked in green (or as “grs”) on the chart. 

The best way to avoid damaging sea grass and destroying habitat is to know your boat’s operating depth (down to the propeller), stick to the main channels when cruising, and walk your boat out or tilt the motor if you find yourself leaving a mud trail through the grass. Anchor in bare patches of sand only. 

Responsible boaters take great pleasure in our lush environment, as well as pictures – lots of pictures. Please don’t take anything else.

Image 0503: Get involvedGet Involved

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

—Margaret Mead

The amount of effort required to restore ocean habitat and protect its unique species can seem overwhelming. It’s going to take an immense amount of work. But if hundreds of thousands of people each take a few small steps to change their own habits, those small efforts combined can create extraordinary momentum. 

Luckily, South Florida is one of the best places to get involved. Its thoughtful and committed boaters, divers, and surfers are active in cleanup and educational efforts locally, state-wide, nationally, and internationally. 

Here are several ways to join them and change the world for the better:

1. Make cleanups a regular part of your boating activities.
Encourage your family, guests, and crew to pick up any trash they see – particularly plastics – during boating excursions. Teach them that responsible boating includes making sure to leave the cruising grounds in better shape than you found them.

2. Participate in community beach cleanups.

It’s a great way to meet neighbors, make friends, and make a difference.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection provides links to a number of city and county affiliates that organize cleanups and other activities all over the state. The site also links to educational resources, fact sheets, and waste reduction tips and strategies. 

The Surfrider Foundation has 12 chapters throughout Florida, and organizes first responses to local threats along the coastal United States. They often sponsor cleanups, and host a variety of educational and social activities in support of the world’s oceans.

VolunteerCleanup.Org is dedicated to raising awareness about marine debris and encourage efforts to reduce reliance on single-use plastics. Their website features a schedule of local shoreline cleanups from Fort Lauderdale to Key Biscayne, organized by a variety of non-profits, local businesses, and individual volunteer leaders.

3. Support environmental organizations that make a difference.

As awareness grows about the increasing threat to the world’s oceans, governments, NGOs, businesses, and non-profit organizations are stepping up to find ways to combat pollution at its source. Donate. Volunteer. Participate. 

Reputable environmental organizations worth supporting include groups like The Ocean Conservancy, Sea Shepherd, Coral Reef Alliance, Project AWARE Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. Choose organizations wisely to make sure the bulk of your donation supports active solutions, cleanup efforts, and local education.

4Ocean is unique among the organizations dedicated to the health of the world’s oceans. From their Boca Raton headquarters, this privately held for-profit company has opened satellite offices in 27 countries, hiring local workers to take charge of the plastic crises on their shorelines. Their mission is funded solely through the manufacture and sale of iconic collectible bracelets made from recycled plastic and beach glass they collect worldwide, as well as  reusable steel vacuum bottles and mesh bags made from recycled plastic.

 This Earth Day, InterMarine is committed to doing what we can to preserve the precious resource we share. We hope you and your family continue to enjoy the richness of our oceans for years to come. Remember: if each of us makes just a few small changes, we can create a powerful force for good.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us either by phone or in person if there’s anything we can do to enhance your boating experience. Click this link for all InterMarine locations and contact information