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Tourism is New Jersey's second largest industry, thanks in large part to the magnificent white sand beach shoreline that stretches 127 miles from Sandy Hook to Cape May and the numerous lakes that dot the state's interior. Recreational boating, swimming, surfing and other water activities provide endless hours of relaxation and enjoyment for both residents and visitors alike each year. Much can be done by individual citizens to help protect coastal water quality and the same steps can be applied for lake protection as well. As a boat owner, you can play a major role in improving water quality. The first step is to understand the potential impact of boating activities.



In narrow creeks and coves, boat wakes contribute to shoreline erosion. Although this loss of land is a problem for shorefront property owners, it also affects boaters. Eroded sediments create fill in navigational channels, cut off light to underwater life and can actually kill larval forms of many of our aquatic species. All this creates tremendous problems for the aquatic ecosystem.

To minimize shoreline erosion, boats should not produce wakes within 500 feet of the shore. In many tributaries and coves, a boat speed of only two knots above the posted six knot limit creates a wake with great erosive force. The impact of your boat's wake on shoreline erosion can be greatly reduced if you slow down before, not after, the speed limit marker. Speed limits were designed to protect both you and the aquatic environment.



Fuel overflows from gas tanks are dangerous to people and toxic to fish and other aquatic life. The traditional method for determining if you have a full tank is to look for fuel spilled from the tank overflow vent, which contributes to the degradation of the aquatic ecosystem as well as human health. You can prevent these overflows by estimating fuel consumption relative to your tank capacity. With a little practice, you will become an expert at gauging when your tank is full.

Keeping your engine well maintained can prolong its life and be an asset to the environment. A well maintained engine would run more efficiently and be less likely to discharge pollutants into waterways. However, be careful with engine maintenance products such as oil, antifreeze and transmission fluid. As discussed in the Car Care chapter of this booklet, these products should be kept out of waterways.

Marina owners and operators can participate in the recycling effort. For example, by installing and maintaining a used oil drum, they make it easier to recycle your boat's oil. Marinas also provide logical places for the distribution of educational materials to boaters.



Boats are normally hauled out of the water once a year for repairs, painting and general maintenance. Many of the cleaning, dissolving and painting agents used for boat maintenance are toxic to aquatic life.

Boat Bottom Paint
Choose the proper boat bottom paint to suit your specific needs. If boats are kept in dry storage (hauled out after each use, rather than kept at a marina or dock), there should be no need to use anti-fouling paints. Cleaning your boat often can also reduce the frequency of painting. If you must use these paints, use as little as possible and control the amount that enters the water. When scraping the boat bottom, catch the scrapings with a drop cloth. Properly dispose of the paint scrapings as a hazardous waste. Check with your marina or county for proper disposal methods.

Boat Cleaners
Rinse and scrub your boat with a brush after each use instead of using soap. If your boat is stained, use phosphate free soap or dish detergent to get it clean. Many cleaning products contain toxic ingredients. Be sure to read the product labels and purchase the least toxic product to do the job. Try to purchase products that are biodegradable and are free of phosphate and chlorine. Products with warnings on the label can kill or contaminate aquatic life if washed overboard. If you must use these cleaners, use them when the boat is out of the water.



Bottom paints contain pesticides, which prevent fouling organisms from growing on the submerged portion of the boat. Fouling is the covering of submerged boat bottom with barnacles, seaweed and other organisms. A clean boat allows the boat to move more quickly and efficiently through the water.

Bottom paints are designed to continually release small amounts of pesticides into the water in order to prevent fouling. The release rate of the pesticide depends on the composition of the paint and how and where the boat is used. Studies have shown that commonly used boat bottom paint pesticides, such as Tributylin (TBT) and copper, can harm fish, shellfish and other non-target organisms.

Copper is currently the most commonly used pesticide in boat bottom paint. TBT use is now greatly restricted. Manufacturers of anti-fouling boat bottom paints are also working on several less environmentally damaging alternatives. Check with your marine supply dealer for any new advances.



Many of New Jersey's estuaries and lakes are suffering from the effects of nutrient enrichment, which contributes to algal blooms and oxygen depletion. Human and animal waste contains nutrients in addition to disease carrying organisms. These pollutants can have a serious impact on public health and have resulted in the contamination of bathing beaches and shellfish areas. Boaters should know that it is illegal to dump raw sewage in New Jersey waters.

Never dump raw sewage into local waterways. Use onshore restrooms as much as possible and always use pump out facilities for emptying holding tanks. Discharges from marine sanitation devices which use chemical or biological treatments should also be minimized in light of increasing concern about the effect of their disinfectants on aquatic life.

Request that your marina install and maintain adequate pump-out facilities. By minimizing or eliminating discharge of boat sewage, boaters will be helping New Jersey's waters survive and flourish. For the locations of pump-out facilities, visit



Trash is the most visible kind of water pollution in our oceans, lakes and streams. You should designate a storage area on your boat specifically for trash and recycling. If something accidentally goes overboard, retrieve it. Beverage cans, Styrofoam cups, plastic bags and other debris can trap, injure and kill aquatic life. Trash and debris not only reduce the aesthetic value of a water body, but also may constitute and obstruction to navigation.



By observing the precautions outlined in this chapter, you will be helping to preserve New Jersey's coastal and inland waters for the enjoyment of many more generations of boaters, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts. Here are some simple things you can do as a boat owner or operator:

  • Obey the posted speed limits.
  • Do not produce wakes within 500 feet of the shore.
  • Use phosphate-free detergents if you must wash your boat.
  • Never discharge raw sewage from your boat, and minimize discharge from marine sanitation devices.
  • Do not throw trash overboard.
  • Use extreme caution when using cleansers, paint and anti-fouling compounds on your boat, and avoid using them whenever possible.
continue to Chapter 12: Community Involvement
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Last Updated: July 11, 2018