How Does Boating Affect The Environment?

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Last Updated on August 8, 2019 by Brendan

I have been fortunate enough to have done a lot of travel over the years, and have visited some truly beautiful and amazing places. For me, the most beautiful places were the often the ones most untouched by humans – in pristine condition.

But on taking a closer look, even these locations are often not as pristine as you may think. Walking along a secluded beach on the mid-north coast of NSW the other day, the water was crystal clear and beautiful. But along the high-tide mark were the odd bits of plastic and other rubbish that had been washed up overnight. It’s disturbing seeing this spoiling the natural beauty of these places.

These small bits of plastic may seem innocuous enough, but fish, birds, and turtles often mistake these for food and ingest them. This does not break down in the stomach, and the animals can end up suffering a painful death.

Check out this short video to see what I mean:

Then there is the other end of the spectrum. I have also been to some of the most populated cities in the world. Walking along the canals and waterfronts is a real eye-opener. The stench can be overwhelming, and plastic and goodness-knows-what-else seen floating along.

And that’s just what’s on the surface. What’s unseen (the chemicals leeching into the river bed, as well as the rubbish that has sunk to the bottom) often go unnoticed.

Environment pollution in our waterways

Pollution in our waterways

Now, of course, not all this pollution is from boaters, but anyone on or around waterways has to take care not to contribute to this problem.

After traveling, especially around the big cities, I find it so concerning how we treat our waterways like a dumping ground. I am unsure of the reasons, maybe it’s:

  • out of mind, out of site
  • it’s only a drop in the ocean
  • everyone else is doing it
  • it will decompose in the salt water.

Whatever the reason, if we continue doing what we are doing, the beautiful waterways that we love to spend time on sailing, fishing, and boating of any kind won’t be the same in years to come.

Environmental Effects Of Tourism

The effects of tourism on the environment are also a major concern nowadays. With the global population becoming larger and richer, and new areas being opened up to tourism all the time, the impact of tourism on the environment is a growing problem.

Now of course not all tourism is on or near the water, but I am sure quite a high percentage of holidays involve being near the beach, river, lake or tropical island (I know for me they do ;-) ).

According to The World Bank, for international tourism, the number of arrivals (which is the number of tourists that travel to another country, other than their home country) has jumped from 677 million in 2000 to 1.2 billion in 2015 and is rapidly increasing (see the chart here, or below). And this doesn’t count domestic tourism!

All these people produce pollution and waste whilst traveling from their home to their holiday spot, while on holidays, and on their way back. Many of these holiday locations are in beautiful locations, so extra care needs to be taken to preserve the natural beauty of these areas from pollution, habitat loss, erosion, etc.

How Does A Boater Show Responsibility To The Environment

Fortunately, much of the damage that can be caused by boating and by spending time in, on or around the water does not apply to Laser sailing to the same extent as other boating, but that does not mean that care shouldn’t be taken. We should always work to protect our environment, as it is fragile and precious.

When on the water, care should always be taken to minimize the impact on the environment. As a boat owner or someone who enjoys spending time on the water, some things to keep in mind include:

  • Don’t litter – eg. Bottles, cans, plastic, tape, cigarette butts, etc
  • Launching sites, for dinghies and windsurfers – ie. Be careful of erosion, vegetation damage
  • Sewerage – should not be allowed to enter waterways
  • Soap, detergent and other cleaning products
  • Antifouling
  • Refueling and fuel/oil leaks
  • Foreshore erosion from the wake of boats
  • Dragging anchors – damaging weed beds and reefs, and stirring up mud and silt
  • Noise pollution – both above and below the water
  • Air pollution (exhaust)
  • Introduction of foreign species (plants and animals can be transported between different waterways and introduced)
  • While not always practical or applicable (especially for sailing a laser dinghy), consider your engine (2-stroke vs 4-stroke vs diesel vs electric) and the environmental impact your engine has.

So although we all want to spend time on the water, it comes with an important responsibility. We have to take care and not treat our waterways as a dumping ground and abuse them.

Next time you are on the water, whether you are out sailing your laser, doing a spot of fishing, or just walking along the beach, have fun and enjoy your day out, but do your part. Minimize the effect you have on the environment.

So, please, do the right thing and look after our waterways.

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About Brendan

Brendan has over 30 years experience sailing dinghies, yachts, and windsurfers, but has recently started Laser sailing. "I found it difficult to find all the information that I needed when I started sailing my Laser, and I am sure that others have had the same problem. So I combined all the information I could into this website to help other Laser sailors get the most out of this sport. If you have any questions or comments, let me know... I will get back to you as soon as I can."


  1. Carlo van Niekerk on July 2, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Very important information. Thanks for sharing!

    • Admin on July 12, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Carlo

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