ROSE HAVEN, Md. -- With the boating season in full swing, the industry unveiled a national campaign Saturday to get 17 million recreational boaters to take better care of the environment.
The campaign, estimated to cost $200,000 a year, is aimed at educating boaters to not dump sewage into waterways and improve environmental protection at marinas where they dock.
With the Chesapeake Bay as a backdrop, representatives of the boating industry as well as state and federal officials said that while many boaters are good stewards of the waterways, more work is needed to educate others about protecting the environment.
"We need to help people understand what they can do ... and increase public awareness for the need for clean water," said Neil Ross, president of the Marine Environmental Education Foundation.
The foundation, which represents boating companies, marina owners and other boating interests, is launching the yearlong education campaign.
Ross said it will include public service announcements in the media, distribution of flyers at boat shows and marinas to urge boaters to guard against polluting the waters.
There are 70 million boaters in the country with more than 17 million boats in operation every summer.
"Boaters are a critical part of the cleanup of our waterways," said Ann Swanson of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tristate organization dedicated to protecting the bay.
While some progress has been made, she said more needs to be done to keep boaters from dumping sewage into the water and take greater care not to spill gasoline and oil into the water.
Bob Pacific, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that 45 states now have laws requiring marinas to have facilities that pump sewage from boats, instead of dumping it into the water as was the practice for years.
The Herrington Harbour Marina, nestled on the picturesque western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, began providing pumping facilities to boaters a decade ago, the first marina to do so in Maryland.
Steuart Chaney, the marina's owner, said boat owners have been receptive and the number of boaters using the pumping facility continues to grow. "Boaters say they want to do this. They want to take the high road," he said.
The number of such pumping stations has tripled in the last five years nationwide. Still, said Pacific, there are only about half as many stations in service than are needed even though the federal government pays most of the cost.
Pacific said there are about 2,800 sewage pumping stations in operation in marinas nationwide, many of which weren't available five years ago.
"That represents millions of gallons of sewage that didn't go into our waterways," he said. But he said to do a thorough job another 3,200 stations are needed.