Ocean Currents » good mate http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 24 Nov 2015 20:06:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 To the Point (and Nonpoint): Understanding Sewage Pollution and Stormwater Runoff http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/03/to-the-point-and-nonpoint-understanding-sewage-pollution-and-stormwater-runoff/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/06/03/to-the-point-and-nonpoint-understanding-sewage-pollution-and-stormwater-runoff/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:05:28 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10293

Photo: Corduroy LeFevre

As a boater or marina operator, you have probably experienced first-hand the effects of pollutants. Although you may make every feasible effort to prevent pollutants from entering your local waters, not all sources are easy to pinpoint. Here is a quick refresher of some of the most common types and sources of contaminants.

Most pollution can be categorized as “point” or “nonpoint” discharges. Point sources of pollution – such as outfall pipes – introduce pollution into the environment at a specific site or point. They are generally the easiest to identify, monitor and regulate.

By contrast, nonpoint source pollution comes from a plethora of diffuse sources and is unconstrained in movement. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by water (typically rainfall or snowmelt) moving over and through the ground. Sources include storm drains and runoff from parking lots, roadways or agricultural land.

Sewage: Point Source Pollution

Even though it’s not fun to discuss, sewage is an important topic when it comes to ocean health because it degrades water quality by introducing waste and potentially harmful microbial pathogens into the environment. Untreated sewage can enter the water from faulty residential, municipal or marina septic treatment systems or from direct discharges from shoreside facilities and boats.

Simply put, sewage makes water look bad and smell even worse. As a result, marinas and boaters must play a role in reducing sewage pollution.


  • Remember that it is illegal for vessels to discharge raw sewage within 3 nautical miles of the U.S. coast and the Great Lakes.
  • Install and use a marine sanitation device as required by law.
  • Bring portable toilets ashore for proper disposal.


  • Provide portable or stationary pump-out units or information on nearby pump-out facilities.
  • Give boaters access to dumping stations for disposal of portable toilet waste.
  • Provide clean onshore restrooms and encourage their use.

Stormwater Runoff: Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint pollution sources are difficult to measure and regulate because they tend to be diffuse and widespread. Stormwater runoff can pick up fertilizers and animal waste from agricultural fields; litter and household chemical from streets; and oil and other substances from roadways and parking lots. In marinas, principal runoff pollutants come from parking lots and hull maintenance areas.

The most visible pollutants in stormwater runoff are small pieces of trash. But runoff also carries hidden dangers, such as excessive nutrients, toxins, heavy metals and bacteria.

Boaters and marina operators can help reduce the effects of stormwater runoff by using non-toxic cleaning products; disposing of trash properly; and stenciling messages near storm drains to remind people about the direct connection to local waters.

Sewage pollution and stormwater runoff can severely harm water quality, wildlife and habitats – even local economies. Although any single discharge or runoff event may be small, it is the cumulative effect of many small inputs that is so destructive.

To learn more about how you can help reduce sewage pollution and stormwater runoff, see Chapter 3 and Chapter 6 of the Good Mate manual.


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When It Comes to Oil and Fuel Spills, Prevention is the Best Solution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/05/when-it-comes-to-oil-and-fuel-spills-prevention-is-the-best-solution/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/05/when-it-comes-to-oil-and-fuel-spills-prevention-is-the-best-solution/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 16:55:51 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10173

Boats in a marina. Credit / iStockphoto

On April 20, 2010, an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and releasing an estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico – making Deepwater Horizon the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. Five years later, scientists are still studying and assessing the short- and long-term effects of the BP oil disaster on the Gulf’s residents, wildlife and environment.

While almost everyone is familiar with the effects of large disasters such as Deepwater Horizon and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, many are not as familiar with the effects of smaller, more common spills. Every year Americans spill, throw away or dump out more than 30 times the oil that was spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster. A single quart of oil can create a two-acre oil slick on the water’s surface – approximately the size of three football fields!

Most oil pollution results from accidents and/or carelessness. Fuel oil primarily enters the water during refueling, but oil can also escape during vessel operations. Oil from recreational boats typically comes from dirty ballast water, oil tank washings, bilge water, slops, sludges, fuel residues and waste oil.

Regardless of how they are released, all petroleum products – gasoline, diesel fuel and motor oil – are toxic to people, plants and wildlife. In addition to containing deadly metals, fuel and oil lower water’s oxygen levels, block life-giving sunlight and generally degrade water quality.

That’s why marinas and boaters must play a role in reducing oil and fuel pollution. Any operation involving the handling of oil or fuel should be accomplished in a way that minimizes the possibility of accidental release. Below are some steps boaters and marinas can take to reduce oil and fuel pollution.


  • Don’t overfill fuel tanks – fill to only 90 percent capacity to reduce the chance of spills.
  • Use oil absorbent pads in the bilges of all boats with inboard engines.
  • Regularly inspect through-hull fittings often to reduce the risk of sinking.
  • Recycle used oil and filters.


  • Routinely inspect storage tanks as required by law.
  • Use automatic nozzle shutoffs to reduce the potential for overfilling fuel tanks.
  • Set up an oil-recycling program to deliver used oil to a designated collection site.
  • Keep spill control equipment readily available.
  • Properly dispose of used oil and fuel-absorbent materials.

NEVER use soaps to disperse a spill – IT IS ILLEGAL

To learn more about how you can help reduce oil and fuel pollution, see Chapter 2 of the Good Mate manual.

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Good Boating Practices Start with Good Mate http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/08/good-boating-practices-start-with-good-mate/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/08/good-boating-practices-start-with-good-mate/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 16:58:42 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10054

Spring has sprung – an indicator for millions of water lovers that boating season is fast approaching. While you’re dusting off your vessel for its return to the water, now is also a good time to brush up on good boating practices.

As a boater or marina operator, you’ve seen first hand how a wonderful boating experience can quickly take a bad turn when ocean trash damages a boat or the environment. You know how mishandling a boat can harm ecosystems, wildlife and water quality. Improper, irresponsible or neglectful vessel maintenance and poor refueling, repair and storage habits all present environmental risks. Reducing these risks not only helps preserve clean water and protect the animals that live in it, but also keeps boaters and their families safe – and could even save money.

Fortunately, Ocean Conservancy – working in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and Brunswick Public Foundation– created Good Mate, a public outreach program aimed at reducing and eliminating marine pollution and environmental degradation. It offers simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating that the boating community can use and share.

A cornerstone of this program is the Good Mate manual. The manual fully outlines best boating practices – practical steps you can use today. The manual breaks them down into six manageable chapters: the first five examine pollutants that can enter our waters through regular marina activities and the sixth addresses environmental hazards while at sea. All sections provide boaters and marina operators with many informative and useful tips to be leaders in water protection as well as insight on environmental rules and regulations, techniques related to preventing marine pollution and how to respond to pollution violations.

As a boater or marina operator, you are an important steward of our ocean, lakes and waterways. Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate manual is an excellent tool that offers you simple, practical steps to protect the water that our lives and recreation depend upon. Those actions, multiplied across the entire boating community, add up.

It’s time to look beyond the bow and realize that you can make a tremendous difference in the quality of your experience on the water and in the health of the water we love so much.

Before you cast off, review the easy tips that boaters can take to protect our ocean and waterways.

Put the following list of steps into practice at your marina to find new solutions for a changing ocean.

Download a free copy of Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate manual here.

For more in-depth information on how to practice green boating, visit: www.oceanconservancy.org/goodmate.

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Keep Boating Practices Shipshape with Good Mate http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/20/keep-boating-practices-shipshape-with-good-mate/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/20/keep-boating-practices-shipshape-with-good-mate/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:00:12 +0000 Sonya Besteiro http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7869

As much of the country shakes off the cold of winter, newly budding trees, blooming flowers and balmy temperatures all signal spring’s imminent arrival. The warmer weather also means that boating season is right around the corner.

Just in time, Ocean Conservancy has released its updated Good Mate Manual for green boating. So, while you’re getting your vessel shipshape for its return to the water, take a moment to ensure that your boating practices are in good order as well.

Boaters and marinas are in unique positions to stop trash and other pollution from entering the water. The Good Mate program offers informative and useful tips to help these important user groups be leaders in water protection.

The Good Mate Manual covers six key areas related to boating: oil and fuel, sewage pollution, vessel maintenance and repair, marine debris, stormwater runoff, and vessel operation. And it offers simple, sensible steps that boaters and marina staff can take to develop best boating practices.

You don’t have to wait for the final spring thaw to start incorporating these environmentally friendly management strategies into your operations. Here are five easy ways boaters can protect our ocean and waterways, starting today:

1. Be a leader in your community.

Talk about marine litter prevention with members of your boating community, from your neighbor in the next slip to boating clubs and marina managers.

2. Offer your time.

Volunteer in boat and marina cleanup programs, especially at sites only accessible by boat. And participate in Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup, the largest volunteer effort of its kind for the ocean.

3. Be prepared for accidents.

Accidents happen. Be prepared with absorbent pads to clean oil or fuel spills. Dish soap doesn’t work. It just causes those liquids to sink and contaminate the bottom.

4. Take it all back to shore.

Don’t allow cigarette butts to go overboard; small but significant, they are the most prevalent marine litter item found during the International Coastal Cleanup. Dispose of them properly onshore.

5. Set the pace.

Recycle everything you can, from beverage containers to propeller-snarling fishing line or plastic bags.

For more in-depth information on how to practice green boating, visit www.oceanconservancy.org/goodmate.


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Boating Tips to Keep it Green While in the Blue http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/22/boating-tips-to-keep-it-green-while-in-the-blue/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/03/22/boating-tips-to-keep-it-green-while-in-the-blue/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 20:49:14 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5245

Boats in a marina. Credit / iStockphoto

With boating season around the corner, it’s hard to not get excited for all the fun and excitement you’ll have on the water this year! While boating can be loads of fun, it’s important to remember that you’re playing in someone else’s backyard. Ocean Conservancy and Good Mate have come up with a green boating guide that you can use as a reference point to make sure that you do your part to help keep our oceans (and the organisms that live in them) healthy.

Green boating is something that both boaters and marinas can take part in, which is why we’ve created two separate guides. They cover everything you need to know in order to make your boating ventures more ocean-friendly, including information on how to properly handle your trash, reduce oil pollution, maintain equipment safely, interact with wildlife, and how to prevent water contamination. Need some green boating literature to keep handy on your boat too? No problem, we’ve got you covered there too with a printable brochure.

Check out the guides and let us know if you have any other green boating tips or suggestions!

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