Boats can bring a lot of revenue to coastal cities like Prince Rupert through fishing, shipping and tourism, but some — run down and abandoned — drain resources and have harsh effects on the environment.
Dumping derelict boats in Canada will soon be illegal, thanks to the new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act that was introduced to the House of Commons on Oct. 30. Owners could face penalties, such as fines up to $300,000 and six months of jail time for individuals, while corporations could be slapped with fines of up to $6-million.
When the general manager of the Port Edward Harbour Authority, Keri Weick, first heard about the act, she said, “It’s about time.
“We’ve had a huge problem with that,” Weick said of abandoned boats. The harbour authority has identified 40 vessels in Port Ed, Rushbrook, Fairview and Cow Bay that need to be removed. They are currently working on an application to receive funding under the new act to properly dispose of 11 of the abandoned boats.
“Usually, in our budget, we have to put money away for about two or three boats every year, because these boats, once they’re derelict, it’s really hard for staff to get on there and pump them out. It’s extremely dangerous because they’re all spongy and they’re in such bad shape,” Weick said.
In order to apply for the funding, Weick had to visit every vessel with staff and industry partners to assess and outline the work they require. Once the first application goes through, Weick plans to submit a second one for the remaining 29 boats.
Not only is it expensive — and dangerous — to remove abandoned boats, they are also taking up space that commercial fishermen could use for mooring.
“If I can get all 40 of those vessels out of there, that’s 40 spaces. And we are at capacity. In the summertime, with our commercial guys — we need more space. It’s a positive movement forward even if I get 11 boats,” Weick said. “It’ll be excellent.”
Meanwhile, the Prince Rupert Port Authority has been a chair of the Prince Rupert Harbour Debris Society, identifying problematic elements in the water.
Kris Schumacher, the communications coordinator for the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said that while they are not currently applying for funding, they are looking forward to the act coming into effect.
“Ensuring the safety and sustainability of the Prince Rupert harbour is one of the most important things we do as an organization, both for the vessels that navigate our waters as well as the marine life that inhabits it,” Schumacher said.
“We’re pleased to see this act introduced by Minister Garneau that would strengthen the ability of agents like the Prince Rupert Port Authority to protect the integrity of our harbour. Minister Garneau has visited our port city multiple times since taking office and it’s obvious that there’s time and resources being invested to understand concerns in coastal communities like Prince Rupert and its many stakeholders. At the outset, it seems like a good example of concrete actions to protect our marine environment from the threats posed by abandoned, hazardous vessels.
“It’s just going to strengthen for organizations to be able to hold people accountable. Increasing the penalties is one of the ways to do that.”