Green Boating

Bilge Pad Kit Project: A big way to clean up little spills

The Problem:

Fuels and oils that get into our water are toxic and can do a lot of damage. They harm marine life, ruin habitat and make a smelly mess.

While large scale disasters get the most attention,

seals in oily water
To us it's a marina, but to these seals it's home!
Using bilge pads can prevent problems like this.

the small spills that occur when fuelling up boats or through bilge discharges are the biggest source of oil and gas in our waters.

Worldwide, most of the hydrocarbons that pollute marine waters come from small spills and discharges. In fact, in North America alone, these account for 15 times the pollution of the Exxon Valdez spill—each year!

A spill can spread a long way in a short time given the winds and currents in our waters. As little as 1/2 litre of oil can cover up to 1/2 an acre of water, so it's important to avoid even tiny spills.

The Solution:

Fortunately there is an easy, effective and economical way to prevent and minimize spills: absorbent cloth can be used to soak up any hydrocarbons before they get into the marine environment.

Photo by Mike Richards
Bilge pad kits ready for distribution.

Georgia Strait Alliance’s Bilge Pad Project has introduced boaters to the regular use of absorbent pads as a simple tool to prevent oil and fuel pollution of harbours and shorelines.

In the first four years of our project we distributed over 23,000 absorbent pads to boaters in Victoria, Nanaimo, and Vancouver, along with information on how to properly use and dispose of the pads and copies of our Guide to Green Boating.

In 2007, with funding from Vancity Credit Union, our focus was Vancouver, home port for the bulk of our province’s estimated 350,000 small boats.  This year, we are continuing to focus on the Lower Mainland, but are also including other areas around Georgia Strait in our program. In the Lower Mainland, the kits are being distributed by Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons, the Waterwise Safety Team, Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Reed Pt. Marina, and through a partnership with Howe Sound Marine in Lions Bay.  Maple Bay Marina, Westport Marina, Brentwood Marina, and Oak Bay and Ballenas Power and Sail Squadrons are helping distribute the kits on Vancouver Island, as is the Nanaimo Port Authority.  Kits are available at the floating nature house in Montague Harbour Provincial Marine Park thanks to the Galiano Conservancy's education team. Our kit distribution is continuing through the summer, and we plan to have distributed 3500 kits by the end of the year.  Thanks to our project sponsors, Mountain Equipment Co-op and BC Gaming, as well as to West Coast Spill Supplies and The Harbour Chandler for their ongoing support of the project.


The bilge pad project has been extremely popular among participating marinas and their clientele. Unfortunately this project is currently on hold due to funding shortages. To continue this positive and proactive program we need to secure more funding. If you can help, please contact our Clean Marine BC Program Coordinator Michelle Young

Learn more:

Many thanks to our 2008 project sponsors:

BC Gaming

BC Govt Logo


Mountain Equipment Co-op

MEC Logo