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... Seemingly innocuous recreational boats, particularly outboards, are polluting as much as all the cars and trucks in America; and the marine industry has been holding its breath, hoping that nobody notices
... Pleasure boats have been spilling oil into the environment on a magnitude that is staggering.
In addition to being 80 times more polluting than automobile engines, the more than 8 million two-cycle outboard engines put more oil into American waters than 15 Exxon Valdez oil spills .. annually !
The Union of Concerned Scientists, however, has spoken up, pointing out that an hour of waterskiing can generate more smog than driving a car from Washington, D.C., to Orlando, Florida. For some large yachts, the group says, 10 hours of cruising uses up more gas than a year's worth of driving. It is these kinds of calculations that led maritime expert Andre Mele, in his book "Polluting for Pleasure," to ask of pleasure boating: "Is there any form of transportation more profligate?"
His answer: "Only a fighter jet." ... cont.
"Boats are designed to spill," says Eric Olsson, an oil spill prevention education specialist at the Washington Sea Grant Program in Seattle. "That's their flow gauge--[people fueling boats] literally look over the side and fill it until it shoots out. It's become part of the operation of filling your boat." And unlike gas stations on land, most gas dock fuel nozzles do not have automatic shutoff valves. As a result, Olsson says, marine gas docks are an ongoing source of petroleum in the water column, petroleum that can persist in an ecosystem.
Gasoline, sometimes mixed with oil, also spills out of boats--especially those with two-stroke engines--during operation. Other petroleum-based products, including kerosene, diesel fuel, and antifreeze, can spill from boats in dry dock or while in the water. In boatyards that aren't surrounded with protective gutters--and very few areas require such devices--rain can carry these spilled products to the water.
Petrochemicals can settle in the shallow areas of waterways where the first links in the food chain--fish eggs, larvae, algae, zooplankton, and crustaceans--are found. According to research published in the October 1997 issue of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, extremely low levels of HCs can produce catastrophic effects in fish, including chromosomal damage, growth reduction, and increased mortality rates.
According to the California Air Resources Board fact sheet, a typical personal watercraft with a two-stroke engine generates more smog-producing emissions in seven hours of operation than a 1998 passenger car driven 100,000 miles.
There are about 17 million boats in the United States. Recreational boating is a dominant element of the coastal economy. The NMMA estimates that retail sales of all boating products hit $29.25 million in 2002, up 30% from 1997 ($19.34 billion). There are about 30,000 businesses in the marine industry, employing about 500,000 workers. Marine consumers pay almost $400 million in boating-related taxes and fees annually. Each year marinas alone generate about $2 million in federal gas taxes.