Like a bad penny, an unattended boat can repeat its damage over and over. Toxic fluids such as engine oil and antifreeze leak out; the crushing weight of sodden hulls can damage fragile sealife in the intertidal zone. But Viva is hardly the only one. Currently there are 50 or so vessels in False Creek that are simply parked in the water, its owners AWOL, and like sad, neglected Viva, continuing to create problems for our sad, neglected marine environment.
People ask, “How can this happen? If someone left their RV right in the middle of the intersection of Burrard and Georgia streets, how long would it stay there? Aren’t there laws to prevent this?”
Yes, in fact there are. In 2019 Ottawa passed the Wrecked, Abandoned and Hazardous Vessels Act to deal with problem boats just like Viva. But even though this is Viva’s second time aground, it keeps returning, like a bad penny.
False Creek Friends filed a Freedom of Information request last March. We wanted to know – out of the thousands of vessels that litter our precious coastlines – how many owners have been charged under the Act.
The answer, we discovered, was not a nice, round number. It was an odd number. A very odd number.
One. One owner was charged. A fine of $5000 was levied, we were told. But Transport Canada, the government agency responsible for enforcement, was not able to answer our next question: did the owner pay???
Quite likely, no.
There are many administrative issues that frustrate frontline workers, from Coast Guard members, police officers, to parks board employees. What do you do with one of these vessels once it has come ashore? There’s nothing like a car empoundment facility for boats.
Which goverment agency is going to pay for its destruction? And, can the owner even been found?
This has been an ongoing issue for many years, and it is only going to get worse. The North American boat building industry estimates there are between 35 and 50 million fiberglass boat hulls that are reaching the end of their life cycles. It will become a fiberglass tsunami if nothing is done. And places like False Creek are going to be inundated. A fiberglass tsunami.
Ottawa has tried, but we need much more creative thinking. For example Washington State has essentially created a “bottle deposit fee” on new boat owners. When you buy your dreamboat, you are also signing up to pay for its destruction, so it won’t become a collective nightmare.
We believe that this unique sliver of the Salish Sea deserves special attention. It should not become a parking lot for boats way beyond their “best before date.” False Creek must take its rightful place as the Gateway to the Salish Sea.