The Environmental Impacts of Kayaking – Is it Dangerous?
Kayaking is an activity enjoyed by many people of all ages. It requires little or no experience and nearly anyone of any skill level can participate. It’s most popular as a summertime sport, but is also a great activity during the winter. Kayaking also seems relatively friendly to the environment; more so than speed boating or water skiing. Because a kayak doesn’t create large or frequent waves, require fuel, or disperse hazards into the air, it is indeed a fairly safe activity for humans and wildlife alike.
Kayaking on freshwater lakes and streams creates little turbulence and therefore, does not disturb fish or other aquatic life. Actually, the gentle paddling and movement of the kayak helps to bring kelp and seaweed to the surface, making for convenient snacking to the fish. However, there is a downside to kicking up an all-you-can-buffet for your fishy friends. In addition to bringing food to the surface, kayaking also stirs up litter that’s been lurking beneath the waters. Most fish will not eat the trash that rises to the top, but other aquatic animals will mistake it for food. This could cause the animals to choke on the indigestible litter, leading to death. As hazardous as this sounds, it isn’t very likely for such an event to take place. Most litter in lakes and streams is found along the shoreline and settles in the sand and dirt, and isn’t likely to drift away to the main body of water.
Unlike boats operated by motor and fuel, kayaks pose little or no harm to the fish swimming beneath. Kayaks don’t move at a rapid pace, and the fish swimming below have ample time to move out of the boat’s way. And because kayaks do not have a motor, fish have no risk of getting caught underneath the boat.
One potential hazard that results from kayaking is human waste. This depends solely on where you plan to kayak, and if there are resources available (such as campsites) along the shoreline. When there are no facilities in sight, you’re paddling in the middle of a lake, and nature calls, then often you are given no choice but to expel your waste in the middle of the water. While human waste is considered biodegradable, it can be harmful when ingested by fish. The only preventative measure is to avoid using the water as a restroom, but again, this can’t always be helped. Some public lakes and streams have taken steps to preserve the quality of the water by requiring permits for kayaking. This won’t eliminate a human waste problem, but does help regulate entry into the lake and prevent it from becoming overcrowded.
An important factor to remember when kayaking is that you are a guest in someone else’s home. You may not be greeted by anyone or be able to kick up your feet and watch TV, but the water is home to many aquatic animals and wildlife. Just as you would not throw trash on the floor or destroy the home of another, you shouldn’t do it outdoors either. Keep all trash with you in your kayak and properly dispose of it after you return to shore. Don’t dump anything in the water, and try to avoid expelling human waste if at all possible. By doing your part, you will help keep kayaking a safe and enjoyable activity for yourself and the environment.