Caring for the marine environment through ocean awareness, advocacy, and citizen action.
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The Dockwalker Program

Working with boaters for a healthier Sanctuary

Clean Boating

Oil pollution is a major problem for ocean ecosystems - it can affect all marine life from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. Pollution decreases the strength and vitality of marine animals by degrading their life support systems and habitat. Unfortunately, use of recreational and commercial boats have a negative impact on marine life. With 28,000 boats in Monterey Bay each year, boat pollution can enter the ocean through accidental oil spills, oily bilge water being pumped overboard, and improper disposal of hazardous waste.

Save Our Shores is dedicated to working with boaters within all harbors of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary to reduce the impacts of improperly disposed oil. We strive to keep toxic chemicals out of the ocean through providing free services, tools and information to the boating community.

The DockWalker Program

One of the three most common sources of information for boaters is word of mouth. In 1995, Save Our Shores started the DockWalker program to provide one-on-one outreach in our harbors to help boaters safely discard of used oil and waste products. DockWalkers do this by talking to boaters about the problems associated with small oil spills, providing boaters with tools to clean up spills using oil absorbent pads, and informing boaters of oil collection services in the harbors. This program was so popular that the California Coastal Commission adopted it in 1999 and took the program state wide. It is now supported by the California Department of Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Commission's Boating Clean and Green Program.

Used oil can easily enter the marine environment and quickly contaminate the water where it is difficult to clean up and endangers marine wildlife.

Reducing oil contamination requires adequate facilities for proper disposal of used oil and oily bilge water in our harbors. Increased boater awareness as to the dangers of oil contamination and the presence of oil disposal facilities also reduces oil contamination. Read all about how to use oil absorbent pads below.

DockWalker Volunteers work in the Pillar Point (Half Moon Bay), Santa Cruz, Moss Landing and Monterey Harbors from May to September. Short trainings are held the day of the event to prepare volunteers to work in our harbors. A typical DockWalker shift is 3-4 hours and consists of handing out free educational and oil spill clean up materials to boaters. Contact Rachel at for more information.

Visit our Cleanup & Events Calendar for upcoming DockWalker events

Watch these informative videos for more information:
How to use Oil Absorbent Pads:
  • Attach one in the bilge to soak up oil so when the automatic bilge pump starts there is no oil going into the ocean
  • Keep one on board for accidental oil spills when doing maintenance on the boat
  • Wrap one around the fuel nozzle when fueling to prevent any drips
  • Place one around the fuel opening on the boat to prevent spills if the fuel overflows
The DockWalker Kit Includes:
  • Oil absorbent pad and pillow
  • Information on how to be a clean and green boater
  • Floating Save Our Shores key chain
  • Fish ruler with information about recycling used oil
  • Map of all of the oil recycling centers in the Monterey Bay
  • Map of the local MPAs of Monterey Bay
  • Information on bilge pump-out stations

The Hard Truth About Oil Contamination in our Oceans

It is estimated that 706 million gallons of waste oil enter the ocean every year, with over half coming from land drainage and waste disposal. Most of it is from the improper disposal of used motor oil. Americans alone spill about 180 million gallons of oil into the water every year, that's 16 times the amount of oil spilled during the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989!

Offshore oil drilling and spills or leaks from ships typically contribute less than 8% of the total. The remainder comes from routine maintenance of ships (nearly 20%), hydrocarbon particles from onshore air pollution (about 13%), and natural seepage from the seafloor (over 8%).

The oil that ends up in the ocean only stays on the surface of the water for a very short time and this is the only time it can be properly extracted with oil absorbent pads. These pads are hydrophobic which means when they are placed on the surface of the water they do not soak up any water, they only soak up the oil which is why they are so great to have on board a boat!

Contact Rachel at for more information.

Map of Local Facilities to Recycle Used Oil, Pump the Bilge or Pump Sewage:

Stop the by Save Our Shores office on the Santa Cruz Harbor to pick up the map above.