University of Florida

Green Marine Practices

Florida’s aquatic environments—its beaches, rivers, springs, reefs—are important parts of the state’s natural resources. Both residents and tourists value these places for recreation and enjoyment. Our marine resources also contribute to the Florida economy through fisheries, tourism, and more.

Most people know how to protect land and water resources when they are on land, but here are some tips for interacting with the marine environment in a sustainable way while boating.


  • Avoid spilling fuel when filling your tank.
  • Wipe up any overflows or spills rather than hosing off into the water.
  • Keep engines in good condition, and check seals and gaskets for leaks.


  • Clean your boat out of and away from the water. Consider using a dry slip.
  • Consider using non-toxic, phosphate-free, biodegradable cleaners.
  • Use a drip pan with an absorbent material when you drain oil from the bilge.
  • Put oil-absorbent material or a bioremediation bilge boom in the bilge area.
  • Remove bilge or boat plugs in a contained area
  • Recycle used oil and absorbents.

Trash & Waste

Trash and debris in the marine environment are a danger to the health and safety of marine animals, as well as an ugly addition to Florida’s beautiful waters.

  • Stow or secure loose items to keep them from blowing away.
  • Carry trash bags to put garbage in. Throw away the bags when you get back on shore.
  • Recycle your monofilament lines.
  • Trade in used batteries or take them to proper disposal sites.
  • Use bilge switches that do not contain mercury.
  • Contact your marina or local solid waste division about proper disposal of paints, bilge pump switches with mercury, flares, used oil, and old gasoline.

“Pump It-Don’t Dump It”

The Clean Vessel Act bans discharging raw, untreated sewage into any State waters. Properly dispose of your sewage waste at pump-out facilities. Though most facilities have universal deck fittings, consider installing a fitting on your vessel that provides a tight seal for your holding tank.

In the Keys, discharging any sewage—raw or treated—is prohibited. This area includes all waters:

  • Extending three miles from land on the Atlantic side of the Keys.
  • Extending nine miles from land on the Gulf side of the Keys.
  • In the Florida Keys National Marine Preservation Areas (SPAs).
  • In the Western Sambo and Tortugas Ecological Reserves.



  • Avoid chopping up aquatic plants with your motor propeller.
  • Grass beds will appear brown in color—avoid travelling over these areas.
  • If you run into a seagrass bed, turn off your engine and pole or walk your boat out of the bed.

Follow these tips to prevent spreading invasive aquatic species:

  • Rinse and empty bilges and live wells away from the water.
  • Remove plant fragments from your boat, tackle, gear, and trailers, and dispose of it away from the water.

Sea Life

  • Let fish keep their natural habits by not feeding them.
  • Properly dispose of trash. Marine debris poses a high risk to marine life that mistakes debris for food or becomes entangled.
  • Avoid disturbing wildlife by staying at least 100 yards offshore and reducing your speed, noise, and wakes around mangroves.
  • Obey posted signs for no-wake zones.
  • Remember that harvesting corals and shells from Florida waters is illegal.
  • Use circle hooks and practice catch-and-release fishing.


Reefs are fragile communities. To prevent damaging these beautiful and important resources, follow these tips:

  • Use reef mooring buoys or anchor in sandy areas away from coral and seagrasses.
  • Reefs will appear brown in color—avoid travelling over these areas.
  • Avoid grounding your boat on a reef. Consult navigational charts, stay away from shallow areas, and avoid going out in rough seas with poor visibility.
  • If you run aground, turn off the engine and tilt it up. Wait until high tide to move your vessel and call for assistance if necessary.

Clean Marina Program

Florida’s Clean Marina program recognizes marinas and boatyards that help protect water quality and the marine environment. Clean Marinas offer the following:

  • Staff to advise on safe fueling techniques.
  • Pump-out services and well-maintained on-shore bathroom facilities.
  • Biodegradable cleaning products and oil-absorbing materials for sale.
  • Educational materials on protecting the coastal environment for boaters.
  • Clean, safe grounds and working areas.

Details about the Clean Marina program, as well as a list of designated marinas, can be found on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

Adapted and excerpted from:

"Clean Boating in the Florida Keys," UF/IFAS Monroe County Extension (accessed 02/2013).

"Environment," UF/IFAS Monroe County Extension (accessed 02/2013).

"Clean Marina Program," UF/IFAS St. Johns County Extension (accessed 02/2013).

Clean marina

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