By: Lisa Geddes, Boating BC Association
For decades abandoned boats have littered Canada’s shorelines, waterways, and fields, posing an environmental and safety risk and negatively impacting local economies. It seemed these eye sores were no one’s responsibility, and getting help from the federal government was challenging since responsibility laid with three different ministries – none of which had the authority or resources to deal with the issue.
As concerns from local governments and communities mounted, the recreational boating industry advocated for action and were pleased when Transport Canada made the important decision to establish the national Abandoned Boats Program (ABP) in 2017.
One of the first major initiatives of the program was new legislation. While the vast majority of boaters are responsible, not all of them are, and the passage of Bill-64 the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessel Act now makes it illegal to abandon a boat in Canada. To clarify what constitutes abandonment, Bill-64 assigns responsibility as the "owner of a vessel (who) is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, presumed to have abandoned it if they leave the vessel unattended for a period of two years."
The Act increases owner responsibility, liability, and the potential for penalties, and has been well received by the boating public who were surprised to learn it was not already illegal to abandon a boat prior to 2018.
The ABP also includes funding for three initiatives: $500,000 for fibreglass recycling research, $5.6 million for the removal current abandoned boats and $550,000 for education and awareness.
Fibreglass recycling is a global issue faced by boating and many other industries. Research continues and collaboration across initiatives shows promise. To date, the $5.6 million allocated for boat removal has eliminated over 110 boats from federal waters marking great progress, but the number of boats remaining continues to be overwhelming. The current application window for boat removal funding is open until the 2020-21 funding is spoken for. Anyone interested can find more information on the ABP website.
Moving forward, the message to boaters is clear; it is their responsibility to dispose of their boat properly at the end of its useful life. For many boaters, the options available to dispose of their old boat are not clear, and it’s a sector of the industry that hasn’t been well organized or promoted.
To help, Boating BC Association and Boating Ontario, with funding received for awareness and outreach under the ABP, have created resources on their websites to help guide boaters through responsible boat disposal. These resources include local businesses ready to assist with disposal, charities that will accept some previously-loved boats as a donation, and information about how to properly do it yourself. They are a great resource wherever you reside and will prove helpful in guiding boaters through the process.
Progress has been swift in the three years since the ABP was announced, but much work remains. The boating industry will continue to work closely with government as new initiatives under the ABP are rolled out, and they need boaters to help. When the time comes to retire your boat, give it a proper farewell and do your part to ensure our pristine waterways are available for generations to come.