Most sailors and boaters are well aware of the benefits and pleasure we derive from the environment that surrounds us. Whether we are happily splashing about in clear, aqua-blue tropical waters or quietly watching wildlife in a calm cove, as a group we are fortunate to have access to some of nature’s most beautiful and exciting landscapes and seascapes.
With that privileged access comes a responsibility to ensure these places remain pristine, both for our own continued enjoyment and for the wildlife that call them home.
According to the UK’s Marine Special Areas of Conservation Project, sailing has a more significant impact on wildlife than other forms of water-based recreation because it is widespread and tends to take place year-round. From petrol in the water, to plastic bags killing off sea life, there are serious hazards that boating can bring to the natural world.
So how do we protect the spaces and the wildlife that we love from these threats?
Fortunately, there are some simple steps we can all take to play our part in protecting the only planet we have. And they can make a big difference.
The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) has put together guidelines aimed at educating sailors and ensuring that our sport has no negative impact on the environment. Following their ‘Code of Environmentally Friendly Behaviour’ is good environmental practice for any sailor.
We’ve all heard it before, but the old saw still holds true. The more you reuse, the less you use and the more you can recycle, the better off we’ll all be.
In practical terms, here are a few things you can do:
Raw sewage is full of bacteria and viruses. It’s bad for the environment, and it’s bad for people, too. Swimming in water contaminated with sewage can cause gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear, nose and throat infections. And filter-feeding shellfish that ingest sewage can cause food poisoning. So here are a few tips for keeping our waters clean, clear and healthy:
The perils of petrol
We’ve all seen the devastating impact that oil spills inflict on marine wildlife and coastal habitats. They cause huge damage to the marine environment, but surprisingly only around 12 percent of the petrol that winds up in our oceans, lakes and rivers comes from major spills – the rest comes from smaller sources.
Here are some tips for preventing petrol from polluting our waterways:
Protect marine animals (and yourself) from antifouling
Antifouling paint is both a good and a bad thing for the environment. Antifouling paint – which protects boat hulls from colonisation by microorganisms – typically relies on biocides, often toxic, that poison the microorganisms hoping to find a home on the boat’s bottom.
While this may sound like a harsh way to treat a life form, the benefits of antifouling outweigh the drawbacks. The practice helps to prevent the transfer of invasive and damaging species between environments and also improves the fuel efficiency of boats. But the paint needs to be applied very carefully.
There are only two tips, but both are very important:
Perhaps the simplest advice to keep any sailor environmentally friendly is to treat the marine environment with respect. In addition to keeping the waters and shores free from toxic substances and marine waste, it’s important to keep in mind that marine life can be very sensitive to our presence.
Attempting to avoid disruptive behaviours when you’re out enjoying nature can save our furry, feathered, finned and flagellate friends from significant disturbances.
Warnings over petrol use following three serious boat incidents