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STATE: Vessel registration increase may result in more boats on the water

National Safe Boating Week is May 22-28 and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is urging the public to make safety a top priority when on the water. The Wildlife Commission reported a 13 percent increase in vessel registration between May and December 2020 and has seen a 10 percent increase in vessel registrations in the first four months of 2021. The surge in registrations will likely result in more boats on the water this year.

“We’ve seen an increase in activity at our boat access areas since COVID restrictions were issued last year,” Capt. Brandon Jones of the Wildlife Commission said. “People are choosing to recreate outdoors and that means our state’s waterways are likely to be more crowded.”

With COVID restrictions now lifting, there is a strong desire to travel and spend time with friends and family on the water as warmer weather approaches.

New and novice boaters are asked to take the following precautions:

  • Wear a life jacket or Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times. Put your life jacket on prior to entering the boat and make sure it’s snug, yet comfortable and will not move above the chin or ears when lifted at the shoulders.
  • Appoint a designated driver for the boat. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal and is just as dangerous as driving a car impaired.
  • Assign an adult “Water Watcher” to actively supervise children in or around the water at all times. Young children and people who are not strong swimmers should always be kept within arm’s reach.
  • Swim only in designated areas. You are less visible to boaters and more vulnerable to accidents. Avoid diving in unfamiliar areas, as there may be hidden structures.
  • Throw, don’t go. Be prepared to throw a floatation device or use a pole or tree branch to reach someone struggling in the water. Never jump in to save someone because you could go under, too.
  • Attend a boater safety course. The Wildlife Commission offers an array of boating education classes. If you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, you must complete an approved course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10 HP or greater.

Following these tips can help ensure safety on the water. Boaters can help keep water systems safe by eliminating the spread of aquatic nuisance species. Protect waters by following these steps:

  • Clean equipment of all aquatic plants, animals and mud.
  • Drain water from boats, live wells and all equipment.
  • Dry all equipment thoroughly.
  • Never move fish, plants or other water organisms from one body of water to another.

For more information about boating laws and safety, visit ncwildlife.org/boating/laws-safety.