Decibel Coalition of 65 municipalities and associations calls for motorboat decibel limits

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TORONTO—A group of over 65 associations and municipalities across Canada (including the town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands) that have united under the name Decibel Coalition (DC) is calling on Transport Canada to put decibel limits on motorboats in order to curtail the increasing issue of noise problem on Ontario’s lakes, including the Manitoulin region.

Current boating regulations, overseen by Transport Canada, allow excessively loud boats with ineffective or no mufflers on regional waterways which adversely affects wildlife and human enjoyment of these areas, coalition members state.

“The issue is dealing with excessive boat motor noise,” said Rob Bosomworth, chair of DC.  “What we are seeing is an increasing number of high-power boats with no mufflers, or inefficient mufflers, travelling on regional waterways.” He said that, with current regulations, while small vessels are required to have mufflers or have through-the-propeller exhaust, this does not include decibel limits on noise emissions. Enforcement officials also lack the technical expertise needed to identify whether a muffler is properly equipped, according to current standards. As a result, there is little to no enforcement of the regulations anywhere in Canada, allowing the problem to grow unchecked.”

The current regulations were set in about 2000 and are ineffective the coalition says. The current regulations only indicate that every boat must be in good working condition. “None of the regulations indicate any limit on decibel levels which is like saying we don’t want speeding to take place on roads; but there are no limits on speeds that you can travel,” stated Mr. Bosomworth. “And enforcement agencies are frustrated because all they can do is talk to the guy who has a boat that makes a lot of loud noise.”

“The number of high-performance boats is increasing in pockets in Canada,” said Mr. Bosomworth. The solution is not only to have a good muffler, but to allow only so many decibels of noise. These decibel limits on boats have been in place in the US and Europe for more than 20 years so it would be an easy fix. The coalition feels it’s time Canada followed.”

Mr. Bosomworth says that “Decibel Coalition has been gathering a growing number of members for the past two to five years. We are lobbying and working with the MTO and Transport Canada, as well as with lake associations, and municipalities such as NEMI, which is in support of our requests.” He pointed out support has been provided in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, representing over 95,000 families. 

“Transport Canada is open to changes being made in the regulations, and small vessel noise emission limits, and posted a ‘Let’s Talk’ questionnaire on their website, with six questions on the issue, such as ‘do nothing’ or to ‘have decibel limits put in place.’ They received a huge response and between 95-97 percent of comments were in favour of imposing decibel limits,” said Mr. Bosomworth. 

“We supported the DC call for having decibel limits and lowering the noise levels from boat motors,” said Al MacNevin, NEMI Mayor. “We supported their request for decibel limits,” he said, noting that “they could do the same for motorcycles.”

“It’s a big issue in larger areas,” said Mayor MacNevin. “We are kind of fortunate here. Even at the marina, we don’t hear boats causing a lot of noise. It seems the problem is with more powerful speed boats. Council passed a motion in support (of DC) but we haven’t had a lot of complaints on the issue.” He said NEMI and other Island locations get a lot more visitors using cruising boats.

Mr. Bosomworth said it will take Transport Canada between 20 to 24 months before new regulations could be implemented. “I can’t see why they wouldn’t do this. They know it is a problem and they brought it forward. And they have engaged in public consultation on the issue.”

Mr. Bosomworth said, “we also started a letter-writing campaign with 2,000 letters and are sending them to 71 MPS across Canada. Transportation Canada conducted public consultation in April and May, and now the Coalition is encouraging Canadians to continue advocating for change by sending a letter to their elected officials while Transport Canada is making its decision for changing the regulations.”