A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the International Coastal Cleanup, a worldwide event that took place last Saturday to focus on the removal and prevention of marine debris. Most of the efforts to remove trash are based along the shoreline. That’s where it is easiest to see and also easiest to retrieve. However, there is plenty of debris out in or under the water that can cause all kinds of problems. Given the extraordinary amount of rain we’ve had this summer, combined with some intense storms, there has been an impressive array of items set adrift. Big logs are perhaps the most common, but I’ve also come across several inner tubes, flip-flops, an engine cover and even an upended boat. These items can cause serious damage to a prop or to fishing gear that can get ensnared in it.

In addition to the aforementioned types of floating debris, one other major problem is boats that have gone adrift or sunken for one reason or another. These are not only navigational hazards but can also cause pollution as they potentially leak fuel and other fluids. They are known as “ADVs” — abandoned and derelict vessels. Sometimes boats are abandoned on purpose. Other times, they break free from moorings or are swept off of docks in storms. Whatever the case, they are not easy to remove. If you do see an item floating, it is always a good idea to contact the local harbormaster to share the location and type of item.

One organization focused on boating safety is undertaking a major effort to locate and remove ADVs thanks to a $10 million dollar grant from NOAA’s Marine Debris Removal Program that will support its efforts over the next four years. The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a nationwide nonprofit with a mission to promote “safe, clean and responsible boating” and is the recipient of these funds. It will open a competitive process at the beginning of 2024 for organizations with the capacity to remove ADVs. It will also collect data to document the problem as well as its progress and provide education to the public on ways to reduce the occurrence of ADVs.

In addition to the organization’s efforts to remove boating hazards such as ADVs, you may have come across BoatUS as a provider of free online boating safety courses (boatUS.org/courses). The completion of a boating safety course has become a requirement in Maine for those born on or after Jan. 1, 1999. There are exceptions, including those for commercially licensed boats as well as youth operating boats with small engines and registered Maine Guides. The course is pretty simple, takes about six hours to complete and can be taken anytime online. There are many in-person options available as well, one of which I took through the Coast Guard Auxiliary. It’s definitely a helpful class and is an easy way to improve safety on the water for everyone.

Aside from taking a boating-safety course, another simple thing that you can do is to put a label on your boat. Commercial vessels and gear have many requirements for labeling in order to track licenses and compliance with regulations. But another benefit of this is the ability to find a boat’s owner if it goes missing. You can get free “vessel identification” stickers to put on a recreational boat — anything from a stand-up paddleboard to a kayak or motor boat — by contacting a local Maine game warden, marine patrol officer or harbormaster. They’re also at many boating and fishing stores and can be found online. Or you can easily make your own with your name, phone number and email address. Whatever the case, it’s an easy way to make a small contribution to the bigger efforts afoot to address marine debris.

Susan Olcott is the director of operations at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.

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