EDITORIAL: Derelict boats a regional issue

Problems caused by abandoned or liveaboard boats could be solved by clarifying jurisdictional responsibilities

Greater Victoria is blessed with many kilometres of coastline and as such, is home to a large number of pleasure craft.

Over the years, some boat owners have chosen to take permanent or semi-permanent refuge in the protected waters in and around the Capital Region. Such spots as the Gorge and Selkirk waterways, Oak Bay and Thetis Cove in View Royal have been among the favoured spots for mariners looking to avoid moorage fees and, in some cases, enjoy free living space.

When these boats have created problems, either by coming away from their anchorage in a storm or leaking mechanical fluids or bilge into the water, affected municipalities have struggled to find permanent answers to what has become an ongoing issue.

Of late, rowers in the Selkirk waters in Victoria have noticed floating human excrement in the area, not to mention had occasion to dodge drifting boats for which no one appears to want to take responsibility.

While the solution might appear simple on the surface – follow the trail and levy a fine, maybe even seize vessels – this case offers another example of jurisdictional paralysis.

The City of Victoria, like all coastal municipalities, has little to no authority on the water. Worried about the cost of enforcing marine health and safety in the area, some councillors have suggested that a third party, such as the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, might be better suited to handle the task.

Neither Transport Canada, which retains responsibility for enforcing navigable water regulations here, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which oversees the marine habitat, seem to want to take the lead on the issue.

They may be forced to clarify their policies before long. Victoria is fast tiring of having no jurisdictional teeth with which to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels.

If and when this problem is solved, it will no doubt cause a ripple effect across the region, as other municipalities seek lasting solutions for dealing with problem vessels on their harbours and waterways.

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