Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Tracey Dalton


Rhode Island was the first state in the nation to designate all waters a No Discharge Zone (NDZ) which makes it illegal for boaters to release treated or untreated sewage from their vessels into state waters. Yet, there is little understanding of recreational boaters’ perceptions and behaviors associated with the NDZ, and what factors might influence these behaviors. This study explores how Rhode Island boaters who have vessels with marine sanitation devices (MSDs) comply with the NDZ program, support the program, and perceive its effectiveness, as well as the factors that relate to these variables. Data were gathered through an online structured survey that specifically targeted Rhode Island registered boat owners with vessels 25 feet in length or greater, as they are more likely to have an MSD on their boat. This thesis analyzed the responses of 271 survey participants to explain their attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors towards the NDZ and its related infrastructure.

Findings show that RI boaters who have vessels with an MSD typically comply with the program, find it effective, and support the NDZ. Important factors related to compliance with the regulation and positive attitudes towards the NDZ include both satisfaction with RIDEM and a feeling that it is a trustworthy agency. Rhode Island boaters who have vessels with an MSD also do not find that the NDZ regulation hinders their overall boating experience, an important factor related to compliance with the program. Managers can use these findings to implement more effective outreach strategies, increase interactions with the boating community, and emphasize the ease at which boaters can comply with the program utilizing the provided pump-out facilities. Studies, like this thesis, are useful for supporting the continued success of the RI NDZ program.



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