Voluntary labels can stave off government regulations

Should non-motorized watercraft be required to have a unique number or the name and contact information of the owner visibly displayed to assist authorities in determining if an empty, drifting craft simply became unhooked from its dock or if the operator is in trouble? (Contributed photo)

Here we are, open-water fishing on the horizon, and we’re delving into whether a requirement for non-motorized watercraft – specifically canoes and kayaks – to be registered and assigned unique numbers prominently displayed when in service is a good idea? It’s an idea being promoted by some local authorities. (For more on the topic, watch for my column in the April 12 issue of Michigan Outdoor News.)

It would be a way to raise money for local communities who are often the first responders when a kayaker fails to show up when or where they were expected, or when a canoe goes tippy and shows up sans the canoeists.

I’ll not argue the merits of this idea other than to say not all the gasoline taxes we pay end up funding better roads or in hiring additional highway patrolmen. Hotel taxes have little to do with improving hotels, cigarette taxes don’t promote smoking or devote many dollars to anti-smoking measures. Politicians and bureaucrats often seem to have an alternate agenda for money collected from citizens.

I recently got a notice from the U.S. Coast Guard suggesting the public should label their kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards with their name, address and phone number after an influx of cases they’ve been involved in having to do with unmanned and adrift paddlecraft. Is this another step in a conspiracy to require registration of non-motorized watercraft, or is it a common-sense measure paddlers can take to ward off government registration and fees?

Say you are sitting along a lakeshore or fishing down a river and an unmarked, unmanned kayak drifts by. Is it adrift after not being properly stored or secured or is there a kayaker adrift somewhere or stranded on shore? What to do?

There are many options, but several of them include dialing 911 to report what could be a life-threatening incident. Once the first responders, which can include local authorities, state officers and the U.S. Coast Guard, are called, the money starts flowing. Once the higher-ups start paying the bills, the pressure increases to make someone pay. Usually, the government’s thought is “make everyone pay.”

Say you are sitting along a lakeshore or fishing down a river and an unmanned kayak drifts by, and upon closer inspection you see a name and perhaps an address and a phone number displayed on the paddle-craft. Grab your phone, dial the number. If the owner answers, great – the problem is on the way to being solved. If the owner doesn’t answer the call, at least the responders have some information with which to start their search.

This message is aimed at the increasing number of paddle sports enthusiasts here in Michigan and elsewhere. If your canoe, kayak, raft or paddleboard floats away, does your contact information go with it?

Categories: Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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