Conservation officers hit North Okanagan lakes to ensure boaters are following the rules.

Conservation officers hit North Okanagan lakes to ensure boaters are following the rules.

North Okanagan conservation officers sought

Increased enforcement is making local lakes safer but officials insist more could be done.

Increased enforcement is making local lakes safer but officials insist more could be done.

Conservation officers checked 202 vessels on area lakes and the Shuswap River from July to September under contract with the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“There’s a huge need for this,” said director Mike Macnabb.

However, Macnabb insists enforcement can’t be left up to the five electoral areas to fund and the provincial government needs to hire more conservation officers.

“There’s a vacuum.”

Under the contract with RDNO, the B.C. Conservation Office Service patrols Sugar, Mabel, Mara and Kalamalka lakes, as well as the Shuswap River.

Coldstream also joined the program this year which has bolstered the statistics from 2015.

From July to September 2016, 78 charges were issued, while there were 278 warnings and 41 orders.

In one case Aug. 6 on Kalamalka Lake, officers came across a personal watercraft operated in a dangerous manner by a 16-year-old girl. She was ordered off because of insufficient safety gear.

And on Mara Lake Aug. 13, there was only a compliance rate of 33 per cent among 15 boats checked. Among the infractions were no spotters on boats, no safety gear, no pleasure craft operator cards, no vessel licences and no angling licences. Three boats were ordered off of the lake due to safety violations.

An ongoing problem is a lack of lifejackets or floatation devices in poor condition, including among those on kayaks or paddles.

“They’ll hold up a jacket and it will fall off of me but they are counting it as a jacket for a child,” said Josh Lockwood, conservation officer.

RDNO’s electoral areas began funding boat patrols a few years ago because of safety concerns on the Shuswap River and the lakes.

“There were wild west shows, including on Sugar Lake, and now people understand the responsibilities (with boating),” said director Rick Fairbairn.