Environmental impact of boating

I am in the process of moving to San Diego or Oceanside to be exact. As I drive down the coast i look at all the great looking waterways and lagoons. I kept thinking what a great place to boat only to find out all but one (the one with jetskis and powerboats) is off limits to kayaking for environmental reasons.

This raises the question what is the impact of kayaking or canoeing on the environment?

Which bodies of water?
A lot of local water supply reservoirs became ‘off-limits’ due to invasive species fears. A few were that way previously due to fears of contamination from humans (as in from swimmers). One local lagoon gets closed due to contamination in it that might affect humans (rain run off from streets).

I think that recreation isn’t valued by the authorities, but minimizing their risks from any source, real or perceived, is highly valued.

Wild guess but kayakers do
cause seals and sea lions to get disturbed… It seems unfair but motorboaters can get much closer and the animals are unfazed…at least here.

invasive species
That is crap. A kayak is way less likely to transport anything compared to a power boat. And isnt it kinda funny were worried about invasive species in an artificial waterway. Sounds like were the invasive species.

Ryan L.

no its not crap
as far as invasives go kayaks are not immune to transporting them…

We have milfoil inspectors here and parts of plants have been found in kayak rudder systems.

And I found a link that might explain that kayakers and sea mammals do not mix in San Diegos reserves


here’s an intangible for you
Perhaps many of those canoeists and kayakers develop an even greater appreciation and respect for the environment by actually getting out into it. So that would be a positive impact.

yes, crap
Im not saying it is impossible. But if a kayak can move organisms a flock of birds can move organisms. And a flock of birds is probably more likely to spend time in two different bodies of water in the same day.

Ryan L.

I would hazard the opinion
that many paddlers are not aware of the marine act of 1972.

Its about time we stopped acting so self righteous and actually think about our impact as paddlers.

I am well aware of that
but it wasn’t a point I considered in my original comment. Depending on the bodies of water the OP was speaking of, the marine mammals may be the very reason kayaks aren’t allowed. There are specific ways to paddle near wildlife that don’t disturb them, and there are certain locations where you just don’t paddle, as there is no way to avoid a disturbance.

In my neck of the woods there are certain shorelines and beaches and islands that one just needs to avoid, by law. And the reasons given for the restriction on this website http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/northcentralhome.asp

and on this website http://www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/maps.htm

are clear and reasonable, to me.

But my local reservoirs closure to recreational uses, or others, once free, now cost $18 to launch on, are, to me, a different story.

I think some restrictions relate to bird
I know at least some restricted wet land areas in Southern California are off limits to avoid scaring or otherwise interfering in birds that often use these areas for nesting, etc… I don’t think it’s anything to do with polluting.

The lagoon closures between Oceanside and San Diego are due to wildlife sanctuary restrictions (primarily birds), not concerns about pollution or ivasive species.

I can see that
There are a whole lot of people in that part of the world. Given the number of them with only a small portion of them owning kayaks those 4 waterways I have been eyeing would be a far different place dotted with boats every weekend.

I was thinking of entry into the water and the foot traffic to get boats into the water would cause erosion on the shore. Maybe the occasional kayaker (times 1000s) that paddles into the brush and pulls out the flora while trying to get to close to the fauna would cause a disturbance to the environment.

It is probably the lack of kayakers there and its protected nature that makes it so appealing, think of the diversity and tranquility there.

Being that these bodies of water all empty into the ocean, I am assuming the water is brackish. Is invasive species a concern in brackish water?

Kayaking harms some fish populations,
too, according to this article in MN


An organism that tolerates brackish water probably has a wide range of tolerance, potentially making a virulent exotic invasive.

Ahh good luck with that!
Self righteous and sea kayaking are synonimous

Stay in your house…
Get back in your Subaru (apologies to big diesel truck owners), the hybrid (apologies to gas execs), of course. Take your kayak (apologies to biodegradeable watercraft owners) home and stay indoors, it’s much cooler there because man made the planet too hot outdoors (apologies to Al Gore). So as to not spread invasive species. (apologies to the innocent weeds and critters that never wanted to leave home in the first place)

excuse me?

– Last Updated: Jul-24-11 11:21 AM EST –

You lost me with the "self-righteousness" comment. Perhaps too much internalizing on your part. I don't know where you get off judging but obviously the kayakers and canoeists in my area have much more regard for the environment and each other than the kayakers and canoeists in your area. But then my standard isn't merely memorization of legislation.

One of the main reasons these areas are closed is that seals, when disturbed, flee to the ocean when frightened. One may not actually see the young seals trampled to death, but it happens nonetheless.

Each year in Monterey Bay, for example, careless paddlers frighten herds of seals that lounge on the rockwall outside the harbor. Since this isn’t a spawning ground, most of these seals don’t injure each other on the rush to the sea.

Whether or not you or anyone you know paddles close enough to cause a small stampede isn’t really the issue. The issue is that if allowed unlimited access to seal spawning areas, someone will cause this to happen. If you want to access these areas, however, many of the seal researchers in the area do take on volunteers and have permission to approach. Hopkins has at least two research teams that take on volunteers, that I know of and there may be others as well.


restrictions = power
Here’s my unofficial theory.

I see this happening in many places and right in little CT. People get jobs working for environmental agencies and to keep their jobs they have to restrict areas. By restricting others it gives them power. No restrictions - no power and eventually no job. If they restrict something they can write about what they are doing to protect the environment.

Yes, there are reasons like bothering birds during certain seasons etc. But kayakers and canoeists due very little to disturb the habitat especially if there’s a sign to not land in certain areas and all that kind of stuff. But for the most part it’s creating a larger problem than is really there and then solving it. And what easier way - restrictions.

There was an area that was open space in CT and given to the US Fish and Wildlife. Right away - restrictions and signs. The environment was perfect before they arrived and would remain the same if they vanished.

maybe, but not in this So Cal case
There used to be lots of wetlands but most were filled in and built on so to few remaining ones are pretty important to many bird species.

In the old days a few folks in some area now and then caused little impact and that impact healed quickly. But in places like So California we have 20 million people nearby and as I said only a few wetlands. Most of these do allow some access near the ocean but further back in the shallower waters were many birds feed and nest they post signs some of which specifically say things like “birds only beyond this point”. It’s a reasonable step given this particular situation. I can’t comments on other locations and rules.