This holiday weekend, the Maine Warden Service will be actively patrolling Maine’s waterways, keeping Maine boaters safe, and enforcing Maine’s boating laws in order to raise awareness about operating under the influence during Operation Dry Water.
Game Wardens will be removing boaters who are operating impaired, enforcing Maine’s Headway Speed law, checking for lifejackets and encouraging boaters to clean, drain and dry their boat to protect against the spread of invasive species.
“Maine has thousands of lakes and ponds, and boating is a wonderful way to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday weekend,” said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso. “We want everyone to enjoy Maine’s waterways in a safe and responsible manner. “
The outreach and enforcement campaign is part of a national campaign known as Operation Dry Water is a year-round boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign with the mission of reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and fatalities through increased awareness and a more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug-use on the water.
During Operation Dry Water in 2022, Maine Warden Service had nearly 100 officers patrolling Maine waters, amassing nearly 2,000 patrol hours of keeping Maine’s waters safe. The Warden Service had contact with over 4,800 boats and nearly 9,000 boaters. In all, the Maine Warden Service removed 16 boating operators off the water for operating under the influence, including one boater who had a blood alcohol level of .13. Alcohol was a factor in three of the eight boating deaths in Maine last year.
“Alcohol continues to be the number one factor in boating deaths throughout the country,” said Maine Game Warden Lieutenant Jason Luce. “Maine Game Wardens will be patrolling lakes and ponds throughout the state to ensure that we all can safely enjoy Maine’s waters.”
If you are out boating this weekend, remember:
- Think twice before you or a passenger drinks and boats. Boating under the influence (BUI) is illegal. Operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is against Maine law.
- Register your boat. Go online at mefishwildlife.com or visit your town office. Funds from boating registrations and milfoil stickers help protect boaters and our lakes.
- Always wear a life jacket.
- Stay alert and be aware of others on the water.
- Always operate your boat at a safe and reasonable speed for your surroundings.
- Be mindful of headway speed areas on Maine’s waters, and obey all boating laws.
- If your boat has an attachable engine cut-off switch, utilize it.
- Make sure your boat is equipped with all the proper safety equipment, including wearable life jackets for all on board.
- Remember to Clean, Drain, and Dry your boat.
- Always tell someone where you are going, and when you will be back.
Maine’s boating activity increases in July, and the July Fourth Holiday weekend brings a high volume of recreational boating traffic to Maine’s waters. The Maine Warden Service oversees the enforcement of laws and rules pertaining to watercraft as well as the safety of all boaters on the inland waterways of the state. Maine has over 116,000 registered boats in the state.
A recent report from the US Coast Guard released the following information regarding boating in the United States that showed the impact of life jackets, alcohol, and boating safety instruction:
- Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths nationally; in 2022, boaters impaired by alcohol were a factor in 16% of boating fatalities.
- 83% of people who drowned in a recreational boating incident were not wearing a life jacket. Always wear a life jacket!
- Boating safety courses are a significant factor in avoiding and surviving accidents. In accidents where it was known if the operator did or did not take a boating safey course, 75% of fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received any boating safety instruction.
The Department also encourages all boaters to stop the transport and spread of invasive species, and remember to clean, drain and dry your boat. Once established, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Remember, please:
- CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving the water access site. Remove all plants, fish, animals, mud and debris from boots, gear, boat, trailer, and vehicle and throw it in the trash.
- DRAIN bilge, ballast, wells and buckets away from the water before you leave the area.
- DRY equipment completely before launching watercraft into another body of water.
- DISPOSE of unused or unwanted bait baitfish on land or in the trash. Never release any live baitfish into a water body.
Please do your part to keep Maine waters safe.