DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—It’s a sign of change for boaters — a pelican on a blue and green flag that identifies a Clean Marina.
“Boaters are starting to recognize the flag that denotes a Clean Marina,” said Maia McGuire, Sea Grant extension agent with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “This is exciting because a big part of the program is educating boaters on what a Clean Marina is and why they should use them.”
She said the program requires marinas to be aware of the impact they and their boaters can have on water quality and take steps to protect the resource. In the last four years, 85 marinas and 14 boatyards have been designated as Clean Marinas.
Until recently, some marinas have been a source of water pollution from fuel, oil, waste and other products. Clean Marinas have taken steps to reduce these problems as part of their certification for the program and to comply with state environmental regulations. Other steps include adding signs for boater education, providing pump-out stations for boats and setting up fish-cleaning stations.
“Our long-term goals include improved water quality with fewer oil and fuel spills, along with better management of bilge water and waste, and better educated boaters,” McGuire said. “Hopefully we can accomplish this by designating more and more facilities as Clean Marinas.”
Representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are participating in the Clean Marina program, which may raise concerns about regulation and fines from some people in the marina industry. Linda McDonald, a DEP government analyst, said the agency is not looking to write citations for marinas but to help them adopt the program to improve and protect Florida waterways.
“The biggest difficulty has been getting the marinas to accept DEP staff as non-regulatory it’s a big stumbling block for marinas to consider us as allies and invite us out,” McDonald said. “Water quality is one of those difficult things to measure and to quantify, but we feel that this program is having a positive impact. Not only do these marinas have staff that are properly trained to deal with spills and other environmental protection problems, they also have facilities that can prevent and react to these problems.”
Marinas that participate in the program do so voluntarily on their own time and expense. Once they sign the pledge card, they can take from a few weeks or months up to a few years to complete the process, McGuire said.
“The marinas do a self-assessment when they enter the program. They’re given a checklist, and they can attend a workshop, or one of us will spend a few hours going over the requirements at their facility,” McGuire said. “The facility will address the things that need to be changed in order to be designated a Clean Marina, and then a team of representatives from Florida Sea Grant, DEP and the Marine Industries Association will formally review them.”
Incentives are built into the program to encourage marina participation. Once a marina has signed a pledge card, it is eligible for $1,000 worth of free items such as a spill kit, a roll-top oil containment unit and a sign package. McGuire said this helps to defray some of the cost to the marinas.
Although only five percent of the state’s approximate 2,000 marinas have entered the program, all types of marinas are participating in the program. According to McGuire, these marinas range from small “mom and pop” operations to large municipal marinas, including some marinas on rivers and those that cater to sailboat owners.
Several military bases have designated Clean Marinas: Mulberry Cove Marina at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Manatee Cove Marina at Patrick Air Force Base and Boca Chica Marina at the Naval Air Station in Key West.
Boaters and marinas are speaking up in favor of the program and the changes that it brings.
“Several of our marinas have told us they’ve had boaters come in and ask them where the next Clean Marina is,” McGuire said. “This shows us the impact because the boaters are out there and looking for these marinas.”
George Wakefield, harbormaster at Halifax Harbor Marina owned and operated by the City of Daytona Beach, said their guests consider the Clean Marina designation comparable to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Halifax Harbor, one of the first marinas to be certified, was home to the first planning meeting of the program.
“We wanted to become a Clean Marina because we’re an integral part of the marine environment and the boating community in Daytona Beach,” Wakefield said. “We have a vested interest in seeing that we maintain clean waterways and local environments, and ensuring that others using our facilities do the same.”
Although Florida was not the first state to institute a Clean Marina program, the idea behind the program originated in the state in 1996 with the Clean Boating Partnership made up of representatives from Florida Sea Grant, DEP, the Marine Industries Association and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.