WATCH: A plan to deal with derelict boats in B.C. waterways has been shot down in Ottawa, but the battle to deal with the eye sores and environmental risks is not over. Linda Aylesworth has more.
Boats can be expensive to buy, expensive to maintain and expensive to get rid of. That may be why the number of derelict boats along B.C.’s coastline is on the rise.
Abandoned boats are more than eyesores.
“They still have fuel in them and they have toxins on them,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of the Georgia Strait Alliance.
Last year Global News visited Mannion Bay, a popular dumping ground on Bowen Island.
WATCH: A 2104 report on Mannion Bay’s derelict boat problem
“We’re concerned that these things might sink, we’re concerned about the unsightliness of them,” said Bowen Island councillor Alison Morse. “Look at what’s inside–gas can storages, all that kind of stuff. Where is it all going to go? It’s going to end up on the bottom.”
So why doesn’t the federal government, which is responsible for Canada’s coastal waters, take them away?
“The problem is if it’s just floating there it’s not causing any problems currently, the Coast Guard rarely will do anything about it,” said Wilhelmson. “It’s only when it sinks and there’s a fuel spill that response happens and by then it’s too late.”
Another problem is figuring out which department of the federal government to report derelicts. It depends on the circumstances.
“You could be dealing with Transport, you could be dealing with Fisheries, you could be dealing with Environment or you could be dealing with the provincial government,” said Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan. “It’s a nightmare.”
Earlier this week Crowder introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Canada Shipping Act in an effort to “streamline it, simplify it, make it easier, so people have one go-to place. You call the Coast Guard, that’s it.”
The bill was defeated on Wednesday. While all NDP, Liberal and Green Party MPs supported the bill, only one conservative member did: John Weston of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.
In an email Weston said that while he “voted in favour of bill C-638…I take issue with certain extremely problematic aspects of the Bill, such as the way in which it would impose an unlimited liability on the Coast Guard …And that’s exactly why I’m drafting my own bill now which will impose criminal and financial liability on those who abandon vessels.”
Even if Weston has more success than Crowder, question remains about how the Coast Guard would handle the extra work.
With budget cuts, dwindling staff and station closures, it would seem that hope for a solution may be dead in the water.
-with files from Linda Aylesworth