Though the ocean may be our playground, it is the home for millions of species worldwide. Unfortunately, our recreational habits often collide with important habitat conservation and marine wildlife behavior. Gaining control of pollution (fueling spills), blackwater, graywater, and waste disposal is necessary for the health of local marine life but finding small ways to reduce your impact are just as essential.
Massachusetts is home to several marine ecosystems, but some are more temperamental and fragile than others. The coastal salt marshes and tide pools are among some of the most easily impacted in New England. Though motorboat activity and pollution are their primary threats, sailboats can easily harm the habitats of dozens of species with a simple mistake.
When maneuvering through these delicate ecosystems, be aware of your boat’s size and your personal noise; creatures, such as the endangered piping plover, will abandon an area (including a potential nest) if they sense danger. Additionally, do what you can to avoid grounding your boat in shallow salt marsh waters—the critically endangered Horseshoe Crab, considered to be a living fossil, enjoys basking in a shallow layer of mud along these waterways.
In addition to checking your behavior on the water, boaters can invest in eco-friendly and sustainable materials and engines—from utilizing biodiesel and reducing fuel usage to finding the most sustainable outboard engine, small choices can significantly reduce your overall impact on the surrounding environment. The Green Boating Guide is an excellent reference. For those wanting to increase their sustainability output, we recommend checking out the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s Clean Marina Guide, which includes strategies to reduce your personal and community environmental impact.