Saturday, September 30, 2023
September 30, 2023

‘Dead Boat’ hunters gear up for new season

Society seeks location information on Salish Sea derelict vessels

A not-for-profit that’s been removing derelict boats from shorelines across British Columbia is once more on the hunt in the Gulf Islands — and is asking for the public’s help. 

This week, as another round of funding from Transport Canada spins up for the federal Oceans Protection Plan’s Abandoned Boat Program, John Roe said he and his Dead Boats Disposal Society (DBDS) will be submitting their application and starting their season removing derelict vessels, docks and other debris. But what they need most right now, he said, is location information.  

“We’re getting better at doing our surveys, and our drone work — we have some volunteers to do that,” said Roe. “But there’s a real lack of data in all these bays and inlets. If we don’t know where they are, we can’t put them on our list to get rid of.” 

Roe and DBDS have removed over 250 vessels and hundreds of tons of debris since forming in 2017; Thetis Island’s Peter Luckham, who chairs the Islands Trust Council, said Roe was an invaluable asset to the islands and urged the community to reach out with information on derelict vessels. 

“Not only has he done all of this advocacy,” said Luckham at a Trust Executive Committee meeting last week, “John also is doing the physical work of being out on the water and pulling these boats up from the bottom.” 

Roe said the boats are abandoned for a variety of reasons — often simple neglect, he said — but sometimes even the best-intentioned owner can’t handle the price tag associated with recovering a boat sunk in a storm. 

“The cost of these disposals has gone up,” said Roe, “so it’s making it even more difficult for a person that wants to be responsible.” 

The key to efficiency this year would be a good inventory, according to Roe. With funding, accurate locations of derelict vessels and favourable weather, his team can move fast — and could easily remove a dozen or more boats a day. But public reporting is key.  

“People that are out there paddling and everything else tell us where they are,” said Roe, adding that he also encourages people to call the Coast Guard and report derelict craft and debris. “Sometimes they just don’t want to deal with the government agencies, so they come to us.” 

To report wrecked, abandoned and hazardous vessels to the Canadian Coast Guard, call 1-800-889-8852; to reach Roe and DBDS visit and fill out the reporting form with as much information as possible, email or call 250-383-2086.


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