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Feds announce funding to remove 34 abandoned boats in B.C.

$1.6 million will go toward six B.C.-based contractors tackling eight projects.
MP Patrick Weiler announced $1.6 million to remove 34 abandoned boats from B.C. waters on Jan. 16.

Less than a week after a sailboat sank next to the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority, Member of Parliament Patrick Weiler was in Gibsons to announce funding to remove abandoned boats from B.C. waters.  

The $1.6 million will go towards eight projects that will tackle 34 abandoned and wrecked vessels. Six B.C. organizations are receiving the funding: Gibsons Marine Transport Ltd., Freedom Diving Systems Ltd., Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, Salish Sea Industrial Services, Rugged Coast Research Society, and TS’IL SDANG. 

Weiler, who represents West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, made the announcement on behalf of Minister of Transport Pablo Rodriguez at the Gibsons Public Market on Jan. 16. He noted the importance of water in Canadian communities, and how hazardous boats are “not just an eyesore, but they also pollute our waters. They pose a danger to delicate ecosystems and the environment,” interfere with navigation, damage infrastructure and pose a threat to the public. 

Some of the vessels slated to be removed are located in Shoal Channel, Howe Sound, Plumpers Cove, Langdale Point and Armours Beach. Weiler said he looks forward to working with local governments and First Nations as partners, and encouraged residents to report problem vessels to Transport Canada and other authorities. 

Ben Zander of Freedom Diving and Travis Hodgson of Gibsons Marine Transport both attended the Tuesday morning announcement. Between the two contractors, they’re slated to remove eight vessels on the Sunshine Coast. Those include a boat that wrecked on a beach between Armours Beach and Granthams, another that sunk in Plumpers Cove Provincial Park — a popular anchorage where Zander’s been called out to unhook anchors — a vessel near the old Langdale tie-up grounds past the ferry terminal, and another boat on the beach just south of Keats Landing. 

“It’s great to see support from the government in dealing with vessels in the local waterway here. For future generations, these vessels are going to keep degrading into the environment. It's not going to get better unless it’s cleaned up,” Zander said. Hodgson added, “It’s nice not having to boat by them anymore and have nothing done.” 

“We know that coastal communities, especially those that are more remote, often do not have resources, financial or otherwise, to remove these vessels,” Weiler said. “And so that's why this funding is so critical and why the government of Canada will continue to step up to deal with this challenge. We know it's only through close collaboration with local partners that we can make these projects a reality. And I know this is a problem that has become very frustrating for coastal residents.”

He listed vessels he has seen himself off Bowen Island, in Pender Harbour and Porpoise Bay. “I know many citizens have navigated the jurisdictional quagmire to help deal with this and, rightly, they’ve demanded that we do more. So today’s announcement is a step forward in that direction.” 

While a specific timeframe was not provided, Weiler said it is “imminent” and boats could be removed as early as next month. Zander and Hodgson said once they obtain possession from Transport Canada they expect to do the removals in mid-February. 

Weiler also named recent separate but related action from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), which is committing to fining hazardous vessels up to $6 million. Previously owners could be fined up to $50,000 for abandoning their boat in coastal waters. Weiler said the government is also improving the vessel registry system to better track ownership of pleasure crafts. That will include shortening the amount of time to register a vessel. The 2023 budget included new vessel remediation funds, which will operate on a user-based system. Collectively, Weiler said, there are some steep fines. 

Since 2017, Canada’s $3.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan has approved funding to remove 223 boats in Canadian waters under the Abandoned Boats Program. The program saw renewed funding in 2022 of $3.7 million over three years, including the most recent announcement of $1.6 million for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

The national inventory of wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels lists 1,048 entries in British Columbia. For information on how to report a wrecked, abandoned or hazardous vessel, visit Transportation Canada’s guide

After the announcement, Weiler headed down to the Gibsons Landing Harbour Authority to take a look at the recently sunken sailboat. 

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