A spokesperson for the Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) said a new act designed to rid local bays of dilapidated boats has made no difference in Central Saanich’s Brentwood Bay.
“It has had no effect whatsoever,” said Michael Simmons, the society’s vice-chair. He offered this assessment after the group reported six carefully chosen dilapidated vessels as abandoned, first to the Canadian Coast Guard, then to Transport Canada.
Simmons said a Canadian Coast Guard official told the group the Coast Guard deals with vessels when their presence poses a potential environmental threat or a navigation hazard, and directed them to Transport Canada.
According to Simmons, Transport Canada did not consider the vessels abandoned because abandoned, as defined by the ministry, means that nobody had attended to the vessels in the last two years.
“It’s an extremely generous definition of what abandoned means,” Simmons noted. “It makes it almost completely impossible to define anything, anywhere as abandoned.”
Transport Canada did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Simmons said all six vessels that were reported 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 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. More than two years later, SIPS’s assessment has changed with Simmons calling out Transport Canada as part of the problem.
After SIPS reported the six vessels back in February, at least two have sunk, with the latest last month.
According to SIPS, the 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.
“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,” Simmons 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.
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