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News and Resources

Be a responsible boater to protect our bays - August 23, 2012

There are so many ways to enjoy the coastal bays. If you are fortunate to have access to a boat, your bay options expand. Boating on the coastal bays is so much fun. Do your part to be a safe boater.

The Boating Safety Education Act requires that any person who was born on or after July 1, 1972, and operates a registered or documented pleasure vessel on Maryland waters, be in possession of a Certificate of Boating Safety Education.

Each year, boating accidents occur on our coastal bays. Some result in property damaage, personal injuries, or even death. As a skipper, you have the responsibility to ensure the safety of your passengers and others enjoying our waterways. Drowning is the number one cause of death in boating accidents. A PFD, personal flotation device, can prevent accidental drownings.

Take care to have the proper PFD onboard for all passengers. Ideally, all passengers should be required to wear their PFD. Emergency situations can occur suddenly, leaving little time to put on a life jacket. Children under the age of 13 must always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD while the vessel is under way. I

In addition to boating safety regulations and rules of navigation, the Boat Maryland certification course offers tips to boaters on how to help protect our coastal bays. If you are boating behind Ocean City or Assateague, you are enjoying the coastal bays which include Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Newport, Sinepuxent and Chincoteague Bays.

As a boater, you can help protect these cherished bays. Never let plastic bags or other trash blow out of your boat. Trash can be ingested by or entangle wildlife. Please be mindful of seagrass beds. Do not use your propeller in seagrass beds and do not accelerate rapidly in shallow areas. Such actions can destroy sensitive seagrasses and damage habitat that is vital to fish, crabs and other species. Discharge waste at pumpout stations. Never discharge into our bays. Use a bilge pillow to absorb any oil in your bilge. Never operate your vessel in less than 18-inches of water. You could get stuck and, in the process, destroy valuable bottom habitat.

Obey fishing and crabbing regulations. They are in place to ensure sustainable populations of fish and shellfish for all of us to enjoy.

If you own or rent a personal watercraft (PWC) such as a Jet-Ski, please take care to ride responsibly. PWCs are quite manueverable, small and fast, allowing riders to enter areas not accessible by some other vessels. Take care to avoid disturbing habitat, wildlife and other people.

Everything you need to know about boating in Maryland can be found on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website, www.dnr.state. md.us/boating. There, you can find out about boat registration, boating safety, public boating facilities, clean marinas, pumpout station locations, boating advisories and more.

For more information, check out the Boater's Guide to Maryland's Coastal Bays available on the Maryland Coastal Bays Program website, www.mdcoastalbays.org.

Carrie Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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