Letter To The Editor: Ontario’s Lakes Have A Noise Problem

Noise on lakes
Photo by zaibred on Pixabay

Submitted on behalf of the Decibel Coalition

Ontarians are advocating to fix the noise problem on Ontario’s lakes through changes to federal boating regulations.

Current boating regulations allow excessively loud boats with ineffective or no mufflers on regional waterways. This is a major and growing problem, adversely affecting wildlife and human enjoyment of these areas. Waterways are regulated by the Federal Government, and a group of over 65 associations and municipalities called the Decibel Coalition is asking Transport Canada to put decibel limits on motorboats.

A 2021 survey of residents in Muskoka, Georgian Bay, and Haliburton found that 67 per cent of almost 6,000 respondents want muffler laws enforced and decibel limits in the legislation like what has been in place the U.S. and Europe for more than 20 years. Local wildlife is also affected as high noise-emitting motorboats disturb and scare small mammals and waterfowl.

Research funded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada shows that Canadian freshwater biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and research suggests the importance of noise pollution mitigation on preserving biodiversity and aquatic life.

Transport Canada has recognized that existing regulations do not work and that the issue of noise pollution in our country’s lakes is a real problem, recently launching public consultations to address the issue. Current regulations require small vessels to have mufflers or have through-the-propeller exhaust. However, the regulations do not include decibel limits on noise emissions.

Enforcement officials lack the technical expertise needed to identify whether a muffler is properly equipped according to current standards. As a result, there is little-to-no enforcement of the regulations anywhere in Canada, allowing the problem to grow unchecked.

The onus to control excessive boat motor noise should not be left up to citizens. The Coalition is asking Transport Canada to introduce objective, measurable decibel limits for manufacturers and operators that set clear standards on the amount of noise boat motors can make, along with clear and effective enforcement procedures. This will give enforcement agencies the tools they need to do their job and help ensure waterways are quieter.

Transport Canada’s public consultations on these regulations are open until May 13. Of the five options presented, the Coalition believes that only Option 5 will effectively address the issue. The Coalition is encouraging Canadians to send a letter to their elected officials via their website indicating their support of introducing decibel limits in regulations.


  1. I think there is a bigger issue than the noise, it’s the wake/surf boats that create the enormous wakes in bays and is eroding the shoreline where the Loons, ducks and other wildlife call their home!

    • Meh… Duck and loon populations were low and spiked in the early 90’s then began to decline.
      The numbers have now plateaued and are still far above where they were in the 80’s (breeding pairs). I would hazard a guess that as with any species it can go through an over population spike then level out at a lower level. Also the Canadian lake loon survey ruled out shoreline development, human disturbance, eagles and cormorants as contributing factors. Most people use the animals are crying defense to try and get rid of the recreational activities they don’t like.

  2. I live in northwestern Ontario , and i may never see another boat on the water all day .
    So again this is a southern Ontario problem , do not call this an Ontario problem some how or another we get stuck with your stupid rules that have no relevance to us .


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