In the U.S. alone, there are more than 12.5 million boats. From small fishing boats on inland lakes and rivers to giant cruise ships and yachts sailing the high seas, Americans love their boats. After all, a day on the water, with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face is an enjoyable pastime.
Unfortunately, it isn’t great for the environment. Every time we take a boat out on to the water, it contributes to environmental harm.
It might not seem like it at the time, but putting modern boats into the water has an incremental effect on the environment – and over time, those tiny impacts can add up to big damage. In fact, once you realize what kind of damage your boat is doing, there’s a good chance you’ll want to donate your boat to a charity and take up a less damaging hobby.
Coastal Erosion and Other Damage
Whenever you use your boat, you create a wake – and in many coastal, river, and estuary environments, wake waves are a major contributor to shoreline erosion. This is most common in areas where the waters don’t see much wave action and tend to be calmer and more tranquil, such as remote rivers and lakes. Wakes aren’t as much of a contributor to erosion in many coastal areas where there is significant wave activity or regular flooding, but if you are boating through quiet waters, over time the waves created by your vessel can do a great deal of damage to the shore.
In addition to coastal erosion, boats can disturb and damage other delicate ecosystems in the water. Boats anchors, for instance, are a leading cause of damage to coral reefs. You might think that it’s only larger cruise ships and freighters that are causing damage, but smaller boats anchoring on reefs are also a problem. Not only are the reefs themselves damaged, in some cases, irreparably, but anchoring on reefs and in other shallow areas can upset the balance in sea grasses and other habitats for aquatic species.