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Abandoned boat legislation leaves Vancouver Island lobby group with a sinking feeling

Officials waiting too long to remove dilapidated boats, says Saanich Inlet Protection Society
Michael Simmons, vice-chair of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, says a new act designed to rid local bays of dilapidated boats hasn’t made a difference in Central Saanich’s Brentwood Bay. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

A Vancouver Islander lobbying to rid the coast of derelict boats says a new federal act designed to help is too forgiving to be be effective.

Michael Simmons, vice-chair of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) said the act has made no difference in Brentwood Bay because it defines a vessel as abandoned only after nobody has attended to it in the past two years.

“It’s an extremely generous definition of what abandoned means,” Simmons said. “It makes it almost completely impossible to define anything, anywhere as abandoned.

“It has had no effect whatsoever,.”

Simmons offered this assessment after the group reported six carefully chosen dilapidated vessels as abandoned to the Canadian Coast Guard, who told the group it deals with vessels only when their presence poses a potential environmental threat or a navigation hazard, and directed them to Transport Canada.

After SIPS reported the six vessels back in February, at least two have sunk, with the latest last month. According to SIPS, that sinking led to the spill of diesel fuel. Cold water divers floated and towed the boat out of the bay on Sept. 26 following its reported sinking on Sept. 19.

Simmons said all six had been in Brentwood Bay since 2015, were not used as living quarters, and lacked the means to move either by engine or wind.

SIPS had welcomed the passage of the Wrecked, Abandoned and Hazardous Vessels Act in the summer of 2019 because it appeared as if the federal government had listened and was prepared to deal with vessels before they sink or create a hazard.

“By delaying action until dilapidated boats have sunk, the (Canadian Coast Guard) and (Transport Canada) are unnecessarily increasing the costs of dealing with the problem,” he said. “They just don’t have the physical ability to be able to make the act work … So if you are in that situation, if you can’t get the budget to make it work, you then define the act out of existence.”

The Dead Boat Disposal Society has identified more than 4,200 abandoned vessels on B.C.’s coastline.

Transport Canada did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.

RELATED: 37 abandoned B.C. boats targeted for removal from shoreline

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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