Responsible Boating

While most boaters appreciate the natural resources that abound in the watersheds in which they recreate, many are unaware of the impacts boating can have upon those resources. Water pollution problems associated with boating include discharges of oil, fuel, sewage, trash, fishing line, toxic cleaning and maintenance products, bottom paints, and invasive aquatic species.

While boaters may only contribute a small portion of the overall pollution entering our waters, the cumulative impacts of the 184,000 registered boaters in Maryland can be considerable. It is important to recognize the potential negative environmental impacts boaters can have upon our waterways and, more importantly, what we can do to prevent them. Boaters can make a difference everyday by following the simple actions listed below: 

Contain & Recycle

  • Do no let trash get thrown or blown overboard
  • If trash blows overboard, retrieve it--consider it “crew-overboard” practice
  • Pack food in reusable containers
  • Buy products without plastic or excessive packaging--plastic is deadly to fish and birds
  • Do not toss cigarette butts overboard--they are made of plastic (cellulose acetate)
  • Purchase refreshments in recyclable containers
  • Recycle cans, glass, plastic, newspaper, antifreeze, oil and lead batteries at at one of the County Recycling Centers

Fuel Cautiously

  • Remember, fuel expands as it warms up
  • Fill your tank just before leaving on a trip
  • If you fill your tank upon your return to port, fill it only 90%
  • Use oil absorbent material to catch drips from the fuel intake and the vent overflow
  • Fill portable fuel tanks ashore--where spills are less
  • Add a fuel conditioner to your tank if you use your engine infrequently
  • Report spills to the U.S. Coast Guard: 800-424-8802

Control Oil In The Bilge

  • Keep your engine well tuned--no leaking seals, gaskets or hoses
  • Place oil absorbent material or a bioremediating bilge boom in the bilge
  • Place an oil absorbent pad under the engine
  • Replace oil absorbent materials regularly
  • Check fuel lines for damage--replace with alcohol resistant hoses
  • Secure fuel hoses to prevent chafing and leaks
  • Never discharge bilge water with a sheen--it is illegal

Properly Dispose of Oil Absorbent Materials

  • If the pad is saturated with gas, allow it to air dry. Reuse
  • If the pad is saturated with diesel or oil, double bag it in plastic--one bag sealed inside another. Dispose in your regular trash
  • Bioremediating bilge booms should not be sealed in plastic bags--the microbes need oxygen to function. Discard in regular trash

Clean Gently

  • Wash your boat frequently with a sponge and plain water
  • Use detergents sparingly
  • Use phosphate-free, biodegradable and non-toxic cleaners
  • Clean wood with a mild soap powder and a nylon brush--not harsh chemical cleaners
  • Conserve water--put a spray nozzle on your hose

Maintain Your Vessel Wisely

  • Collect all paint chips, dust and residue. Dispose in regular trash.
  • Share leftover paint and varnish
  • Bring used solvents and waste gas to local hazardous waste collection day
  • Keep your engine clean so you can spot leaks
  • Slip a plastic bag over used oil filters before they are removed to capture drips
  • Use premium two-cycle engine oil
  • Use alternatives to toxic bottom paints


  • Never discharge raw sewage in Maryland waters
  • Use restrooms on shore
  • Under way, use approved Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs)
  • Discharge Type I or II MSDs over deep water--avoid discharging in swimming areas, marinas, anchorages or over oyster bars
  • Establish regular maintenance schedule for your MSD based on manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Pumpout and rinse hold tanks regularly
  • Use enzyme based products to control odor and reduce solids in holding tanks
  • Avoid holding tank products that contain quarternary ammonium compounds (QAC) and formaldehyde

Dispose Of Fish Waste Properly

  • Do not throw fish waste into marina waters
  • Use fish cleaning stations where provided on docks or at marinas
  • Discard waste over deep water or in the trash
  • Save waste and use as chum or bait

Protect Sensitive Habitat

  • Proceed slowly in shallow areas
  • Do not disturb wildlife
  • Avoid contact with submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV)
  • Watch your wake--it can lead to shoreline erosion and disturb wildlife

Stop the Invasion!
Aquatic Invasive Species are organisms that have been introduced either intentionally or unintentionally into an area where they did not historically occur. These non-native species often have no natural enemies to limit their reproduction and spread, enabling them to out-compete native species and, in the process, disrupt entire ecosystems. Over 200 non-native species are already established in the Chesapeake Bay and connecting waterways. 

  • Remove visible mud, plants, fish, or animals from your boat, trailer, or other equipment before leaving the water body
  • Drain all water from live wells, bilges, motor, transom, and other containers before leaving launch area
  • Wash your boat, trailer, and equipment thoroughly with hot tap water, if possible, to remove plants and organisms that were not visible at the boat launch
  • Allow your boat to dry for minimum of five days in a sunny location before transferring into a new body of water
  • Do not release live bait or aquarium pets into any waters
  • Discard fish waste in the trash

Be A Responsible Captain!

  • Learn about products and practices which are environmentally safe
  • Share the information with other boaters
  • Help guests understand that, on your boat, no trash is thrown overboard
  • Obey laws governing speeding, littering and discharge
  • Encourage boating facilities to provide trash cans, recycling bins and pumpout stations
  • Support marinas that are environmentally responsible

Visit a Maryland Clean Marina!

Anne Arundel County has over 40 certified Maryland Clean Marinas! These marinas meet the rigorous pollution prevention standards established by the Maryland Clean Marina Committee and the Department of Natural Resources. The operators have voluntarily adopted measures to control pollution associated with marina operations and stand as notable examples of the conservation ethic: individual responsibility for healthy land and water. Below is a map of Certified Maryland Clean Marinas in Anne Arundel County.

Contact Us:

For questions or to inquire about a site visit, please contact our Education and Outreach Coordinator, Sally Albright via email or at (410) 222-0136.