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One of the most effective methods for providing information to boaters is word of mouth. In 1999, Save Our Shores started the Dockwalker program to provide one-on-one outreach in local harbors to help boaters appropriately discard of used oil and waste products as well as share best clean boating practices. Dockwalkers engage boaters about the problem of small oil spills, providing boaters with tools like oil absorbent pads to clean up spills, and informing boaters of oil collection services in local harbors.

This program was so popular that the California Coastal Commission adopted it in 2000 and took the program statewide. It is now supported by the California Department of Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Commission’s Boating Clean and Green Program. Since 2000, “more than 700 volunteers across the State have become Dockwalkers, distributing over 100,000 boater kits throughout California”. We receive material and resource support from the California Division 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. Increasing boater awareness and the presence of oil disposal facilities reduces the risk of 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 year round, with higher volume during the summer months. As of 2016, Save Our Shores is also serving marinas in San Mateo County: Coyote Point and Oyster Point Marinas. Short training sessions are held the day of the event to prepare new volunteers to work in these harbors. A typical Dockwalker shift is three to four hours and consists of handing out free educational and oil spill cleanup materials to boaters in exchange for a quick educational survey. Contact matt(at) for more information.

How to use Oil Absorbent Pads

  • Place one in the bilge to soak up oil, so when the automatic bilge pump starts there is no oily bilge water 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 tank opening on the boat to prevent spills if the fuel overflows

What’s in the Dockwalker Kit?

  • Oil absorbent pad and pillow
  • Information about 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 in Monterey Bay
  • Information on bilge pump-out stations
  • Mono-filament Recycling Containers (Made from re-purposed tennis ball containers)

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 more than 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 percent of the total. The remainder comes from routine maintenance of ships (nearly 20 percent), hydrocarbon particles from onshore air pollution (about 13 percent), and natural seepage from the seafloor (over 8 percent).

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 do not soak up any water. They only soak up the oil, which makes these pads an invaluable tool on board any boat.