Environment Magazine

How Abandoning a Boat Kills the Environment

Posted on the 17 March 2017 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

You didn’t have much fun on your last boating trip, and your boat is starting to cost more in docking and maintenance fees than it is worth. So, instead of worrying about pulling it out of the water and doing something with it ― selling it, scrapping it ― you decide to just let it float. After all, marine conservation groups spend millions sinking old ships to bolster local reef systems, right?

Whether or not you manage to convince yourself that doing so is good for the environment, the fact is abandoning a boat is extremely detrimental to the health and safety of all people, animals, and operations in the area. Abandoned vessels pollute lakes, rivers, bays, and seashores around the world, and it is time all boat owners understand why this method of disposal is heinously wrong. Lets look at 5 ways how a abandoned boat kills the environment.

beached-boat-fishing-wreck-red

Abandoned Vessels Leach Chemicals

You wouldn’t want to drink the water that cools your car’s engine due to all the toxins and poisons it touches ― and you shouldn’t want to pollute waterways with your boat for the same reasons. Boats are constructed using multifarious synthetic materials and solutions, and in time, many of them leach chemicals to create a toxic environment. For example:

  • Cleaning agents like detergents accumulate in sediment and are broken down by microorganisms. At best, these chemicals create a nasty foam on waterways’ surfaces; at worst, they reduce the oxygen content in water, impairing wildlife growth.
  • Battery acid and lye easily dissolve in water, increasing an environment’s natural acidity or alkalinity. Most marine wildlife requires a specific pH, and changing that level can decimate an entire region ― plus it can irritate swimmers’ skin.
  • Tributlytin (TBT) is still used in anti-fouling paints, despite the widespread knowledge that even small amounts of the chemical are extremely toxic. When TBT doesn’t kill an organism outright, it can be dangerous to humans who consume TBT-laced fish or shellfish.
  • Oil, gasoline, and other fuel products inhibit wildlife in dozens of ways, from killing environments outright to causing cancer, birth defects, and behavioral changes. Additionally, fish and shellfish contaminated by these chemicals taste bad.
  • Zinc, copper, and other metals that make up boats can chip off or dissolve in water, and they are impossible to remove from the environments they contaminate. When ingested, these metals can decimate marine plants and animals.

When abandoned vessels decompose, they release these substances and more to obliterate natural environments and endanger humans in the area.

Abandoned Vessels Endanger Waterways

Any obstacle in the water poses boaters a serious threat. Human debris can get tangled in motors; shallow rocks can carve holes in hulls; and other boats on or in the water can rend vessels to pieces.

Abandoned boats are particularly dangerous since they move without intention, drifting on the surface or bobbing beneath it without notice. In fact, during wartime, many nations intentionally set boats free and sank vessels and other obstacles ― including explosive mines ― to deter enemies from entering waterways.

The difference is that modern warfare allows the navy to send out autonomous or remote-controlled obstacles as well as locate and remove past hazards, while civilian-abandoned boats continue to be dangerous nuisances. Because boating accidents are often deadly, you should strive to do as much as you can to keep waterways safe, which means finding alternatives to abandoning your unwanted vessel.

Abandoned Vessels Attract Crime

Aquatic squatting isn’t an uncommon practice at marinas around the country, especially during times of economic trouble when people become desperate for shelter. This illegal activity alone is a cause for alarm, since squatters tend to leave inordinate amounts of litter and can even sink vessels unintentionally. Yet, while some squatters are merely searching for a safe place to sleep, many others are eager for a location to commit additional criminal acts.

Criminals will use any resources available to preserve and bolster their criminal activities, and uninhabited boats in unmonitored waterways are ideal locations for crime. Once you abandon your boat, your vessel becomes another means of perpetrating immoral or criminal acts. Abandoned boats often become sites of illegal housing and illegal activities, including theft and vandalism. Worse, you remain liable for damages caused by your boat ― or the people on your boat ― after you abandon it. Thus, you could end up spending more money after you ditch your boat than you ever did maintaining it.

Abandoned Vessels Spoil Natural Beauty

If nothing else, abandoned boats don’t look pretty. America’s waterways tend to be stunning places of ecological and geological splendor, but litter and debris of any size threatens the natural beauty. Already, tourism has a massive impact on ecologies around the world, and marine tourism is some of the most dangerous. Perhaps the most famous example of human traffic spoiling natural ecosystems is the manatee, whose populations disappeared shockingly fast after motorized watercraft began trolling through their shallow habitats. However, plenty of marine destinations suffer merely from the accumulation of litter and other waste, including the Great Barrier Reef, Loch Lomond, and even Antarctica.

Undoubtedly, you are already frustrated by garbage and clutter at a few of your favorite waterways. Ignoring the harm done to natural environments by a rotting vessel, ignoring the dangers posed to other boaters and your community, you should still be hesitant to abandon your boat for the sake of safeguarding beautiful scenery.

Alternatives for Abandoning Your Vessel

Abandoning your boat is especially egregious considering the manifold alternatives. Instead of threatening countless lives by letting your boat rot in the water, you should consider any of the following safe and constructive ways of getting rid of a vessel you no longer want:

Donation. Some nonprofit organizations eagerly take in unwanted boats and endure the hassle of refurbishing them and selling them to donate proceeds to charity. Additionally, vocation schools in your area might be eager to accept your old boat to use for practice materials or demonstrations. Typically, donation processes are simple, and the organizations will often pick up your moldering boat, meaning you have little more to do than if you had merely abandoned it. Plus, you can write off the donation on your taxes, and the amount you save from your deductions could easily outweigh your standard deduction.

Sale. If your vessel remains in relatively good condition, you might consider selling it yourself. Personal boat sales require some labor and ingenuity; you must create a realistic price, draft enticing advertising copy, and manage posts in a handful of locations. Thankfully, the internet has made boat sales somewhat easier, and mobile apps like LetGo and OfferUp are revolutionizing how people buy and sell used items. If you believe there is sufficient value in your boat, you might be able to sell it with minimal effort.

Salvage. For boats in poor repair, the salvage yard is a viable destination. Salvage yards purchase boats with the intention of selling them for parts, so you can still make some money off your old vessel.  You can also break down your boat yourself to retrieve valuable materials, like aluminum, and sell that to scrap yards.

Junkyard. As a last resort before abandoning or scuttling, you can simply haul your boat to a junkyard. Unlike salvage yards, where materials are recovered and sold by themselves, junkyards sells intact vehicle and vessel parts, like your boat’s fiberglass hull or propeller. Alternatively, you can wrench those parts off yourself and sell them individually ― but that is much more work than dropping your boat off and driving away boat-free.

Image credit: pixabay

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