Clean and Simple - Small changes for greener boating

Learn how you can reduce your boat’s environmental impact

Next time you’re venturing out onto the water, there are a few simple changes that you can make which will really help to minimise your boat’s impact on the local marine environment that you visit.

Keep your distance

Various images of Up to Speed newsletter September 2021

Firstly, always keep a watch for upcoming wildlife. Try to keep a distance of at least 300 ft. away from any sightings. This will help to minimise any unintended collisions and disturbance from your boat’s noise or wash - slowing down will also help with this.

Maintaining a slow and consistent course when travelling on the water will also lower your unpredictability for nearby animals. This will, in turn, reduce their level of perceived threat and you may even be able to view the animal for longer. However, you must never try to follow or chase wildlife and particularly should never get caught between a mother and its young. Approaching wildlife from behind should also be avoided as this can similarly be perceived as aggressive and predatory, therefore causing them unnecessary stress.

If you are exploring a new area of water, remember to research the wildlife that you may see before setting off. Learning about an animal’s behavioural habits, including feeding and resting locations and the times of the day that they undertake these activities will not only help you to react better if you encounter them, but it will also make your trip more interesting. At the end of your day on the water, remember to try to go ashore using recognised landing places to reduce risk to nesting birds on the shore and damaging shallow water habitats underfoot.

Reduce the spill

Various images of Up to Speed newsletter September 2021

Did you know that only 5% of the oil and fuel pollution found in our waters originates from catastrophic spills? Most of the engine pollution in our oceans actually comes from everyday spills caused by engine emissions, oil leaks or during refuelling.

Just a few drops of spilt oil when refuelling can easily contaminate large areas of water, whilst larger spills on land can cause tonnes of contaminated soil. As boat users, we can all take simple precautions to help minimise the risk of accidental releases by taking extra care when refuelling and by maintaining engines correctly so that they can operate efficiently.

Regular maintenance of your boat’s fuel lines, connections and seals will ensure that any leaks can be easily spotted and fixed. Placing a drip tray under your engine is an easy way to continue monitoring for any signs of an engine leak. 

Spills into water can cover fishes’ gills and prevent them from being able to breathe; you can reduce the chance of spills when refuelling by using absorbent materials at refuelling pontoons.

And remember, try not to use oil and fuel within ten metres of the water’s edge, this will reduce the chance of any accidental spills polluting aquatic life.

Lower your emissions

Various images of Up to Speed newsletter September 2021

Being able to run an efficient engine will not only minimise your boat’s emissions, but it will also use less fuel and give you a better ride. High levels of emissions can negatively impact both the air and water quality of your local area.

You can lower your boat’s emissions by regularly servicing your engine, in line with manufacturers’ guidance, including changing the oil, cleaning the spark plugs and ensuring that any air-filters are dust free. Cleaning the hull of your boat of any bio-foul will also lower emissions by reducing drag and fuel consumption.

Keep it clean

Various images of Up to Speed newsletter September 2021

When you clean either your boat, your dishes, or yourself, the cleaning products involved could easily end up in the water. Products used on boat hulls and decks often contain microplastics, chlorine, ammonia, potassium hydroxide, and solvents, all potentially harmful to the aquatic environment.

Many everyday detergents (such as washing-up liquids and laundry detergents) contain phosphates which, if spilt, can lead to nutrient enrichment causing algal blooms and oxygen depletion and leading to a localised suffocation of aquatic life.

It is recommended that whilst cleaning your boat you avoid using cleaning products altogether and only use fresh water and a good scrubbing brush. This also helps to protect any sealants which can perish and lose colour from using certain detergents.

If you are using cleaning products a top tip is to watch out for products that have ‘polyethelene’ listed in their ingredients list, this means they contain microplastics. These smaller bits of plastic can be readily ingested by wildlife and enter food chains. Instead, try sourcing more eco-friendly alternatives that contain natural ingredients, and are just as effective.

Learn more…

As regular water users, we have a duty of care to respect the marine environment that we share. Both inland and coastal waters have an amazing variety of marine life that often depends on the waterways as a clean and safe place to feed and raise their young. Frequent noise, pollution and disturbance from humans can disrupt an animal’s natural feeding times, increase stress levels and lower rates of reproductive success.

To learn more about boating sustainably, visit The Green Blue website where you can find further information, guidance videos and activity sets. The Green Blue is the environmental awareness programme jointly funded by the Royal Yachting Association and British Marine, and their website and social media pages provide a wealth of advice and guidance on best boating practices. Follow The Green Blue on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @TheGreenBlue.