According to the U.S. EPA, one quart of oil dispersed in water can create an oil slick two acres in size.


On the water

Of the many benefits associated with living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, pleasure boating tops the list. There are more than 200,000 registered boats in Maryland, as well as numerous visits by non-resident vessels each year. Marylanders and our visitors regularly enjoy other water-related activities too, like fishing and swimming. It's up to all of us to take steps to ensure that we do not harm our waterways as we appreciate all they have to offer.


Marine sewage disposal

Under federal and state laws, it is illegal to discharge raw sewage in Maryland waters or within U.S. territorial waters. Raw or poorly treated sewage can contaminate seafood and is harmful to human health and water quality.

All vessels with installed toilets must have an approved Marine Sanitation Device to treat or contain sewage. The most common is a holding tank, which stores sewage until it can be emptied at a pump-out facility. Boaters should make sure that their "Y" valve is secured so that no sewage is discharged from a holding tank. (For information on the location of the 260 pump-outs located at marinas statewide, call 410-260-8770). Other systems may treat sewage to certain standards, but do not remove nutrients. These systems should only be discharged in deep open water, away from oyster beds, swim areas, other boats and poorly flushed areas.


Clean marinas

Because marinas are located in a unique setting -- where air, land and water meet -- they can greatly impact our natural resources. The Maryland Clean Marina Initiative promotes voluntary adoption of measures to reduce pollution from marinas and recreational boats. For a pollution prevention guidebook for marina operations, call 410-260-8770.


Friendly fueling practices

It comes as no surprise that petroleum products are harmful -- even fatal -- to aquatic life. If you see a spill that creates a sheen on the water, please report it immediately to the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Boaters should fill tanks to only 90 percent of capacity. "Topping off" nearly always results in a spill when fuel rushes out the vent and over the side. Inexpensive petroleum absorbent materials are available to help catch splashes and spills, as well as to catch spills or leaks in the engine compartment or bilge.


About your engine

Though nearly all engines contribute to pollution in one way or another, 2-stroke engines are particularly harmful. Commonly used as outboard motors or on personal watercrafts (jet skis), 2-stroke engines discharge one-quarter of their fuel, unburnt, into the water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a 70-horsepower, 2-stroke engine, running for one hour, releases as much hydrocarbon pollution as a car driven 5,000 miles.

Quieter 4-stroke engines are far more efficient. They are 40 times cleaner than old 2-strokes and seven to 10 times cleaner than new models. Although 4-stroke engines cost a bit more than comparable 2-strokes, they get four times the gas mileage.


Vessel maintenance

Keep the environment in mind when doing regular maintenance chores -- like scraping, sanding, painting and changing engine fluids.

  • Collect all paint chips, dust and residue (use tarps, dustless sanders) and dispose in regular trash.
  • Share leftover paints and varnishes, and follow label directions for disposal.
  • Choose propylene glycol antifreeze -- it's less toxic.
  • Use a bottom paint developed for the mid-Atlantic region.
  • Recycle used oil, oil filters and antifreeze.
  • Bring used solvents and waste gasoline to local hazardous waste collection days.
  • Call 1-800-4-RECYCLE for locations of recycling centers and information about hazardous waste collection days.



This one is easy! Never throw anything overboard. Reduce trash by reusing or recycling containers. Cigarette butts are harmful to aquatic life and are not biodegradable.


Protecting habitat

In addition to addressing safety, many speed limits, no- wake zones and other restrictions also protect shorelines and wildlife habitat. Boaters who obey these restrictions reduce the impact of boat wakes that lead to shoreline erosion and disruption of sensitive feeding and spawning areas. In shallow areas, reducing speed also protects Bay grasses that provide critical habitat for crabs and other species.

  • Good fishing habits and ethics
  • Carry required licenses and permits.
  • Obey size and creel limits.
  • Recycle fishing gear or fishing line.
  • Use non-offset circle hooks when chumming or bait fishing (reduces deep hooking and mortality of released fish).
  • Fish for another species once you have caught your limit of a specific fish.
  • Bring back only those fish you plan to eat. Carefully release others.
  • When cleaning fish, use a fish cleaning station or dumpster to handle the remains -- don't put them back in the water.

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