Local government officials met with federal MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones on July 5 for a briefing on the federal government’s new Abandoned Boats Program (ABP), but many are concerned that the funding offered is insufficient to deal with the problem of derelict, wrecked and abandoned vessels on the coast.
Currently no level of government is responsible for derelict and abandoned vessels unless they are a navigation hazard or are actively leaking toxic materials, so the problem tends to fall on local governments and harbour authorities. According to a 2012 Transport Canada report, there are approximately 2.6 million licenced pleasure craft in Canada (a number which is growing rapidly) and there is no process for retiring or recycling small boats.
Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats Program is taking applications for funding to assist in the removal of abandoned small boats, but the budget is only $5.6 million over the next five years for the entire country.
Sechelt Councillor Alice Lutes is disappointed at the size of the funding.
“I’m afraid that $375,000 [the first year’s allotment] will only deal with the administration of all the applications they’re going to get. None of it will come down to actually physically removing abandoned vessels,” said Lutes.
“We need to really show the federal government how big an issue this is, especially here in Porpoise Bay, but all over the waterways of Canada.”
The two biggest concentrations of abandoned vessels on the coast are in Porpoise Bay and Pender Harbour, with others scattered through Georgia Strait and Howe Sound.
SCRD Area A Director, Frank Mauro, who sits on the Pacific Region Harbour Authority Advisory Committee for the Department of Fisheries, says the issue has been a hot topic with harbour authorities for the last six years. Derelict structures, such as docks, are also a problem.
Mauro was pleased to report that two derelict structures (a large float and a dilapidated boathouse) were recently removed from Garden Bay with the assistance of the Department of Transport and the RCMP. “DoT issued a removal order and the RCMP enforced it,” said Mauro.
In the Town of Gibsons, a Recreation Water Lease bylaw regulates how long vessels can stay in the harbour. “Even with the bylaw in place, however, we are still one boat away from having an issue,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Emanuel Machado. “Up until this new federal program showed up, there was no help to turn to.”
“Over the last few years, we removed a couple of boats, which was expensive and cumbersome.”
Once vessels are taken out of the water, there’s another problem—what to do with them. Transport Canada is seeking solutions to the problem of recycling small boats, especially those made of fibreglass. The Abandoned Boats Program will fund research on boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design.
Fibreglass is difficult to break down and there is currently no market for it as a recycled material. There is a company in Germany that crushes fibreglass and adds it to concrete, but no such service exists in North America, so old boats and recreational vehicles are piling up in landfills .