Think green when boating

Published on Wed, May 1, 2013 by Andy Peterson, Blaine Harbormaster

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Boaters are drawn to boating for many different reasons, but I think all can agree that boating allows us to access and experience unique parts of our planet that can only be reached by water. This connection to the environment brings with it some special responsibilities. All boaters are encouraged to demonstrate their stewardship by following boater best management practices, known as BMPs, and adopting environmentally friendly practices that limit our impact to the environment.

  • BMPs are intended to be practical and affordable actions that can reduce pollution at the source. Some examples of BMPs that every boater can follow are: 
  • Prevent fuel, oil, antifreeze, paint, varnish or other chemicals from being discharged into the water. 
  • Keep a clean bilge. Use absorbent pads to clean up spilled fuels and oils in your boat’s bilge water.
  • Do not top off your fuel tanks. Know your tank capacity and don’t wait for fuel spilling out the vent to indicate a full tank. Warm weather can cause expansion resulting in fuel vent spills.
  • Do not use detergents or soaps on fuel, oil or otherwise contaminated bilge water.
  • Report oil and fuel spills immediately.
  • Do not discharge sewage directly overboard. Use the marina’s sewage holding tank pump-out. Washington State Parks maintains a list of pump-out locations on their website at
  • Dispose of hazardous wastes at a proper recycling facility. For more information contact the disposal of toxics program at 360/380-4640.
  • Do not store leftover hazardous or flammable materials in your dock box at the marina. Try to buy only the amount you need. Consider offering other boaters any leftovers.
  • Secure all garbage for disposal ashore and separate out your recyclables. Remember, “if it goes aboard, it comes ashore.”

BMPs don’t stop at the dock. Harbor parking lots and areas around the waters’ edge are also places to control pollution. Only rainwater and snowmelt should go down parking lot storm drains; anything else could be washed directly into marine waters untreated.

Both of Port of Bellingham’s harbors maintain Clean Marina and five-star Envirostars certifications. A complete list of boater BMPs is available at the harbor office and Port of Bellingham’s website, 

Following BMPs and keeping the environment in mind during our activities around the water helps preserve our enjoyment of the environment for future generations. Have safe and memorable boating adventures this summer.