Responsible Boating

Promote best practices by boaters to protect water quality and life in Puget Sound.
Boating in Puget Sound provides unparalleled access to some of Washington State’s most beautiful places and views. Boating and fishing are encouraged in Puget Sound but must be done responsibly to minimize impacts on the Puget Sound and broader transboundary Salish Sea ecosystem.

Responsible boating best practices include:

1) Complying with speed and distance regulations to protect South Resident Orca and other marine mammals;
2) Disposing of sewage and gray water at dedicated pump out stations to prevent the contaminants from entering the ecosystem;
3) Proper maintaining vessels to prevent contamination from derelict vessels;
4) Properly disposing of unwanted vessels to prevent contamination from abandoned and sunken materials;
5) Preventing the loss of fishing equipment, properly disposing of broken equipment; and
6) Reporting any loss of fishing equipment to prevent bycatch and the introduction on non-native materials into Puget Sound.

Activity types to promote responsible boating include outreach, education, incentives, and enforcement of the best practices described above. Implementing the Shellfish Implementation Strategy supports the success of this strategy.
  • Reduce bacteria to protect shellfish beds
  • Prevent oil spills
  • Reduce interference with Orca
  • Ensure sustainable harvest of native wild fish
  • Reduce inequitable health outcomes

Prevent and remove lost fishing gear through outreach to boaters and fishers and lost gear retrieval programs. (ID #56)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Increase incentive-based and regulatory prevention and gear-retrieval programs;
  • Enhance reporting of lost equipment on catch reports to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife;
  • Assess primary factors contributing to lost equipment to provide more targeted education;
  • Track hotspots for derelict equipment to provide more targeted enforcement and clean-up;
  • Consider financial incentives, such as deposits on fishing and crabbing equipment, to promote responsible behavior and fund clean-up efforts.

Educate boaters about dumping organic matter and the No Discharge Zone, ensure sufficient and convenient pump out capacity, and enforce the No Discharge rule. (ID #62)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Ensure that Puget Sound ports and marinas prioritize supporting the No Discharge Zone in their environmental plans, by providing appropriately scaled pump out resources, verifying holding tank capacity for vessels using port facilities, and supporting mobile pump out programs;
  • Develop and distribute educational materials to boaters on the effects of dumping organic matter and the No Discharge Zone regulations and available pump out facilities;
  • Expand enforcement authority to relevant state and federal agencies to conduct inspections and respond to illegal discharges;
  • Increase enforcement of marinas to ensure slip owners are properly pumping out their sewage tanks;
  • Consider new funding mechanisms to support No Discharge Zone education and compliance, such as a fee at vessel registration or on commercial vessels visiting port facilities;
  • Consider permanent pump out stations at popular recreational destinations.

Reduce the abandonment of vessels and expand and accelerate derelict vessel removal programs. (ID #67)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Seek federal funding for derelict vessel removal programs through new and existing mechanisms;
  • Expand the Washington Vessel Turn-In Program by allocating more resources.

Promote implementation of and compliance with laws and guidelines for boaters and vessels to protect Southern Resident Orcas. (ID #68)

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 include:

  • Research, develop, and implement quieter propulsion alternatives for boats and other vessels;
  • Expand the pool of observers and technologies that provide real-time orca sightings to the Whale Report Alert System through Quiet Sound and key partners;
  • Develop, enhance, and support the efficacy of innovative and existing social marketing campaigns (for example, Be Whale Wise) to complement and enhance the effectiveness of existing outreach organizations in promoting safer boating behavior around orca;
  • Expand the use of mixed media and signage to highlight opportunities to view orca from land;
  • Enforce and adaptively manage rules for boating around orca considering best available science and the results of marine spatial planning efforts; monitor and provide additional protection for vulnerable orca;
  • Educate boaters on the required protections and importance of distance and speed regulation, including visiting boaters in partnership with charter companies.
Implementation Considerations

Key opportunities for 2022-2026 to integrate human wellbeing considerations and climate change responses into efforts include:

Human Wellbeing

  • Research, develop, and implement community based social marketing to better understand and create positive behavior change within the recreational boating audience. Boating and fishing communities’ connections to Puget Sound and usage patterns are better understood through their preferred outreach and engagement. Through effective outreach and engagement to boating and fishing communities, better understand local knowledge of existing best management practices and opportunities for behavior change.
  • Education and training at boat launches, especially at new boat launch facilities, yacht clubs, and marinas, and other water access points to describe the need for protection, cleaning, and inspection requirements, and BMPs are enhanced.
  • Increase public beach access, especially in vulnerable populations and underserved communities, and ensure that water is tested to ensure it is safe for swimming, expand Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication, and Health (BEACH) program.
  • Develop guidance that provides specific examples for how to hold accessible meetings (time, locations, and incentives, compensation, etc.). This includes asking communities how they want to be involved.
  • Identify funding that can embed outreach expertise with technical staff on the ground to increase access and equity in communication and education coupled with boater education.
  • Develop (or leverage existing) guidance on plain language material development and how to create accessible materials in multiple languages and formats for meetings.
  • Include information on pump out stations in navigational maps.
  • Coordinating body and hub is created to provide education, training, communication, and technical support to local groups around oil spills, invasive species, and boater best practices.
  • Provide informational resources to promote best boating practices like pump out stations and fueling bibs that are readily available in or near tribal nations’ marinas and vulnerable populations.
  • Incorporate connections between water quality and human health into resources.

Climate Change

  • Incorporate targeted information about current and future changes in climate and ocean conditions into boater education.
  • Promote electrification for boats and vessels.
  • Promote reduced speeds as an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing underwater noise and ship strike risk to marine mammals.
Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs provide regulatory oversight, technical support, implementation resources, funding, or guidance and serve as the critical foundation for Puget Sound recovery. The following is a list of example state and federal ongoing programs that help to implement this strategy. Many more local, tribal nations, and nongovernmental programs exist that support this strategy.

What We're Measuring

We achieve our recovery goals of healthy human populations, healthy water quality, increasing functioning habitat and thriving species and food webs, and vibrant quality of life by removing derelict vessels; reducing ambient noise and disturbance of Southern Resident Orca (from vessels, jets, etc.); reducing the amount of derelict fishing gear; and ensuring that levels and patterns of pollutants and biotoxins in surface waters do not threaten the health of Puget Sound communities or vulnerable populations. Indicators of success include:

Noise in marine water

This indicator reports on noise made by human activities as a sign of stressed condition in marine waters.

Noise in marine water

No reported data available

Current Legislative Actions