Marine News from the Great Lakes

More Than Just Emissions: Boating And Noise Pollution

Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2019
By: Joe Fleming, Chief Engineer for Elco Motor Yachts,

As summer gets in full swing, approximately 13 million pleasure boats will be entering our nation’s waters for fishing, casual cruising, and other marine-based sports. These fun days in the sun, however, may have an unintended negative impact on the environment due to the majority of these boats being gas-powered. Not only can emissions and unintended oil spills cause adverse effects to the environment, but gas-powered boats cause another pollution that many boaters fail to realize – noise pollution.

Gas-powered boats are far from quiet, and while the roar of the engine may cause an adrenaline rush, it also sends the natural habitats into full disarray. Noise pollution disrupts many water species’ ability to find food, mates, or hear their predators, and can cause severe distress, disorientation, and discomfort.

An ordinary conversation registers around 50 decibels and our threshold of pain is around 120 decibels. Many pediatricians recommend noise protection for children around 85+ decibels. Typical inboard or sterndrive boats can reach 90-105 decibels, making these motors closer to the threshold of pain than for a normal conversation.

We often think about the physical pollution we leave behind, but fail to think about the invisible impact of our sport. If the noise level is high enough to damage hearing for children, imagine the impact it has on the natural environment that isn’t prepared or equipped with any form of protection.

When it comes to our everyday environment, we are protective over our noise levels. We place noise ordinances on residential areas, enact muffler laws within city limits, and place noise protection on our children. Yet, we fail to think about the detrimental impact of the noise pollution we make when trespassing on natural habitats.

The lesson here is not to withdraw from our waters completely. Rather, we need to make environmentally conscious choices – especially when other options are right at our fingertips already. Just like with cars, virtually silent electric options are available and have been for decades. Unfounded beliefs surrounding lack-of-power and the fear of being stranded with a dead battery can be dismissed with today’s solar technology. It is vital, for the sustainability of the environment and the generations to come, that we make moves to minimize our environmental impact when we’re enjoying our nation’s lakes and rivers.

This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Engines, Environmental Impact

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