The environmental impacts and health hazards of abandoned boats in estuaries
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Decaying boats are a common sight in the coastal zone and yet the practice of abandonment appears to be exempt from any clear or enforceable regulation. In the present study we surveyed two estuaries in eastern England hosting an abundance and variety of abandoned vessels. An inventory of items and materials associated with or adjacent to each boat was recorded in order to gain an insight into the hazards and pollution risks related to abandonment. Materials most commonly observed were paints, plastics, timber,expanded-extruded polystyrene and masonry, while items logged included ropes, tyres, canisters, electronic equipment and a variety of metal objects that were either fixed to or contained by the boats. As well as representing an eyesore and inhibiting access to the shore, decaying boats are a hazard to human health and safety and are a source of pollution (e.g. plastics, heavy metals, oil-related hydrocarbons) to local sediment and interstitial waters. Recommendations to deal with the problem of boat abandonment include compulsory boat registration, making boaters aware of (and providing incentives for) safe disposal, and providing authorities and landowners with clear information on existing or new agencies and legislation.
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