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Island MP’s derelict vessel bill a ‘good step’ to what the province needs

A coastal cleanup organization director says Island MP Lisa Marie Baron’s bill to amend the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act is a step in the right direction.

Baron, who represents Nanaimo-Ladysmith, is revisiting the bill that was first tabled and passed its first reading in June 2023.

The bill comes as Baron says there is an increasing number of abandoned boats off Canadian coastlines. They are being left there to sink, and Baron says this is causing more pollution to enter the surrounding ecosystems.

“I went out recently in a kayak along the coast of Ladysmith to look at what locals are calling the ‘vessel graveyard,’” said Baron. “To see the paint cans, the plastics, the oil, the fuel, the batteries, just the extent of the pollution that’s seeping into our oceans.

“It’s just horrific at a time when we know that our marine species and our wildlife are already struggling with warming waters and the impacts of the climate crisis.”

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Baron says that while the Liberal government did introduce regulations in 2019 to see vessels get cleaned up, there are gaps and there is not enough accountability.

The proposed bill, Bill C-344, aims to address issues to make recycling and cleaning up more accessible for boat owners. That includes creating an effective turn-in program, a recycling program, a quick way to find out who owns a particular vessel, and working alongside the province and First Nations to create solutions.

Director with the Dead Boat Disposal Society John Roe says the bill is a good step in the direction of where we need to go. He says that in B.C. around 20 per cent of boats aren’t registered and that is one of the biggest hurdles.

He adds it is very pricey to recycle and deal with a boat and there is not enough enforcement.

“If you look at Ontario and Quebec, it’s the provincial police that enforce the fact that you don’t have an identifiable number on their boat,” said Roe. “Out here, it’s the role of the RCMP and I don’t think people are aware of that.

“They’re working on it and implementing something but again it’s a cost of money.”

Roe feels there needs to be a more industrial approach to cleaning up the surrounding environments and he hopes Baron’s bill will help take care of that.

Baron says the bill could go up for second reading at any point, but unfortunately, that has not happened yet.

Roe adds that for owners right now, you should look after your boat, and put a phone number or email on it to identify it in case it winds up in trouble in nasty weather.

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