Abandoned sailboat removed from Emerald Bay

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – California State Parks and Marine Taxonomic Services have removed an abandoned sailboat from Emerald Bay, preventing serious pollution to the lake. California State Parks representative Dan Shaw said the boat was reported abandoned in early November, and after the owners refused to accept responsibility for the boat, the team knew they had to act fast.

Marine Taxonomic Services removed 3,000 pounds of trash from the boat.

“We had storms coming,” said Shaw. “There was a lot of junk in that boat, but we were really concerned it was going to end up getting smashed up to bits and all end up in the lake. Fortunately, we’ve been working with a private contractor, Marine Taxonomic Services… and they really started doing work before the storms in December to remove trash, the fuel tank, and there was paint and other chemicals on the boat.”

MTS reportedly removed over 3,000 pounds of trash from the boat in preparation for the storms in December of 2021 before the boat could even be removed.

If the debris wasn’t removed beforehand, it could’ve polluted the lake and runs the risk of ruining the ability to use watercraft in the future.

“It takes all of us to protect the lake,” said Shaw, “if we want to enjoy the freedom of recreating on the lake with our boats, and also enjoy Lake Tahoe and the everything this spectacular lake has to offer us. I think going forward, it really just takes all of us to be responsible for our private property and how we recreate on the lake.”

Shaw said in most situations, people who’s boats have perished in the lake will pay to have it removed, but sometimes the Parks staff have to go after those who chose to leave their property behind. Most times, they rarely have the time to chase down people, and encourage those with boats to try to be responsible and work out the problem, rather than abandoning the vehicles.

Shaw attributed much of the success of the removal to MTS, who worked tirelessly to remove the debris before the storms hit. Shaw has worked with the company’s CEO Seth Jones for over a decade now. 
”So instead of waiting for who’s responsible or trying to get the owner to do it,” said Shaw, “we just decided [to do it] because they did it for such an inexpensive rate and because they were really concerned about getting it out of the water that day in particular.”

Jones said that while the problem of abandoned boats isn’t as pressing in Lake Tahoe as other places with watercraft vehicles, there are still plenty of boats that get left behind. MTS is a nonprofit that is able to come and remove the boats, wether the owners can pay or not.

“That’s one issue here a lot of times,” said Jones. “It’s a jurisdiction problem, and people point fingers at whose responsibility it is to pull these boats. It’s not a huge problem here, but Tahoe is so pristine, that it’s a tragedy every time something like this happens, where the boats spew al their oil, when it’s presentable.”

Now, Jones and his team focuses on keeping the lake clean through helping those who may not be able to afford removals. Jones said that watercraft vehicles owners who are having issues in the future are encouraged to reach out to MTS.

“If somebody can’t [afford the removal] or doesn’t have the means to,” said Jones, “We want to fill that niche. If we get paid, or doing paid, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to continue to do this work as long as we can.”

Miranda Jacobson is a staff writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

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