The federal government is providing $1.7 million for the removal of 37 abandoned boats littering the harbours and shorelines of British Columbia.
Canada’s Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra announced the funding Feb. 16 under the Abandoned Boats Program, which will also cover costs for assessing 41 additional B.C. vessels already on the radar for removal and disposal.
Derelict vessels are viewed as having negative economic, social and environmental impacts on coastal communities, polluting the marine environment, harming local businesses like tourism and fisheries, damaging infrastructure, interfering with navigation and posing safety risks to mariners.
In 2017 $6.85 million was allocated to the transportation ministry’s Abandoned Boats Program. Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s also launched a $1.3-million Small Craft Harbours Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program for federally owned small craft harbours. Both programs are financed through the $1.5-billion Ocean’s Protection Plan of 2016.
To date, 201 vessels have been removed from the Canadian shoreline.
“Abandoned and wrecked vessels have no place in our oceans and coastal communities. They’re a danger to our natural environment and they take up space in what should be our community hubs,” Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan said. “This is about protecting and preserving our beautiful coastlines so they can be utilized and enjoyed to their potential by Canadians.”
In B.C. the largest of the recently-announced projects include $327,000 in funding to the Coastal Restoration Society for the disposal of 11 boats in Tofino, and $551,000 for Salish Sea Industrial Services to remove and dispose of 24 boats in the Victoria area.
Salish Sea’s operations manager, Rob Menzies, said the company will retrieve sunk and beached vessels for on-shore containment and a hazardous materials inspection and removal.
Harmful materials likely include asbestos, leachable lead and hydrocarbons. Anything else that’s reusable or recyclable will be stripped out before the remnants are shipped to the landfill.
The Dead Boat Disposal Society has identified more than 4,200 abandoned vessels on B.C.’s coastline.
In addition to a handful of projects in the Atlantic provinces, funding for further assessment or removal in B.C. has been approved for Alert Bay, Barkley Sound, Nootka Sound and Bella Bella.
The Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act of 2019 now makes it illegal to abandon vessels, increases liability with fines of up to $1 million for individuals and $6 million for companies. The act also enables the government to remove problem vessels.
Due to the economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is covering 100 per cent of costs, up to $50,000, to the organizations assessing or removing the problem boats. The government’s previous commitment covered a maximum of 75 per cent.
In the Atlantic provinces, the latest round of program funding will cover costs for the removal of 14 boats, and assessments on three more.
To report an abandoned vessel in B.C. call the Canadian Coast Guard at 1-800-889-8852.