The BC Conservation Officer Service (BCCOS) patrolled Shuswap and North Okanagan waters over the summer of 2022 and found almost three quarters of boaters, paddle boarders and others enjoying the waves were breaking water safety laws.
BCCOS is also planning to open an office in Salmon Arm.
In 2022, BCCOS had its ninth consecutive boat safety patrol program, conducting 21 patrols on six bodies of water it categorizes as priority. These are Kalamalka Lake, which had five patrols, Shuswap River with seven, Mabel Lake and Sugar Lake which were each patrolled three times, Mara Lake with two patrols and Swan Lake with one.
The total percentage of non-compliance was a whopping 71 per cent. While high, the number is down from 2021’s 80 per cent non-compliance.
The patrols checked 1,314 people in total who were on board 175 powered boats and 643 non-powered vessels like paddle boards. Two hundred and thirty-six checks were found to be 100 per cent compliant.
Thirty-four violation tickets were handed out while 740 warnings were issued.
“It was another busy year,” said conservation officer Tanner Beck. “We’re seeing that people are expecting to be checked and more compliance with the major things. Continued education for tourists is our priority – locals seem to be getting the point.”
Eighty vessels, some powered and some not, were ordered to return to shore over the summer. Conservation officers have authority to order this when a vessel poses a threat to public safety or is lacking safety items onboard. Many of the vessels ordered to return to shore were human-powered and operators didn’t have any safety equipment, like life jackets, with them.
Mabel Lake had the highest rate of non-compliance at 86 per cent, followed by Kalamalka at 75 per cent, Shuswap River at 70 per cent, Sugar Lake at 69 per cent, Swan Lake at 67 per cent and Mara Lake at 63 per cent.
BCCOS recently received approval to open a new field office in Salmon Arm. The office will have two officers assigned to it. Salmon Arm will be in the North Okanagan zone which also includes Vernon. Kelowna has been moved into the separate Central Okanagan zone. All these zones are within the Okanagan Region’s responsibility.