LADYSMITH, B.C. – Transport Canada has announced funding to help coastal communities clear out abandoned boats and vessels that pose both as an eyesore and safety concern.
The department says $1.3 million is being made available to assess and remove abandoned boats from ports and harbours in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as to support an education campaign to deter the practice.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement Monday abandoned vessels are a financial burden to communities and the funds will help mitigate the costs.
At least 21 vessels are slated to be removed from a number of harbours including in Ladysmith, B.C., Vancouver, Victoria and Port Saunders, N.L.
Sheila Malcolmson, a New Democrat MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, said the funding is “a drop in the bucket” compared with the scale of the problem.
Malcolmson said local governments have struggled to respond to the hundreds of vessels estimated to be abandoned along Canada’s coastline and waterways for decades, and the federal announcement to remove only 21 boats is a disappointment.
The problem stems from a poor registry system, which limits police agencies’ ability to track down irresponsible owners when they’re issued fines, she said.
“Right now that vessel registry is so undermined and broken that that kind of accountability is not possible,” she said.
Malcolmson introduced a private member’s bill last fall to change how the government handles vessel clean up, but it wasn’t voted on because it was too similar to legislation Garneau was introducing that would make abandoning a boat illegal.
Garneau also announced funding in B.C. to assess 26 abandoned and wrecked boats, allowing port authorities and others to apply to have them removed.
The funding includes $475,000 over the next three years to support research into developing environmentally friendly methods to recycle and dispose of boats.
“Our government is also pursuing other measures to reduce the number of problem vessels that pose hazards in Canadian waters, and support the preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems,” Garneau said in a statement.