Is It Illegal To Toss A Bottle With A Message Into Lake Superior?
In the movies you see someone toss a bottle into the ocean or lake with a note, and it gets to the destination and everyone has a happy ending. You might want to think twice about doing something like that.
There was a story in the Pioneer Press about a woman named Kathy Bennett, who had a grandson, who is 4, who tossed a bottle with a message into Lake Superior in 2004. Years later a woman living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wrote back and said she found it.
Let's start first with the bottle. It all sounds like a great idea, but wouldn't it be like tossing the garbage into Lake Superior? Did Kathy's grandson break the law when he threw that bottle into the lake hoping it would get somewhere? Yes
I reached out to the Coast Guard in Duluth, they didn't have a definitive answer but said they were on the side of throwing garbage in the lake and said they thought it would be better answered by the police. He did say don't do it.
So, I called the Duluth Police Department and they said at first that it would be like throwing garbage into the lake and it would be illegal, then thought about it and said they would have to evaluate what it was I threw and what I thew it in for. She cited some students who put a little boat into the water to see if it would make it to the ocean. In that case, they might not consider charges.
When I did ask her if I were to throw a bottle with a message into the lake and explained it was an experiment to see if someone would find it, and what would happen? She got real serious and said she didn't want to answer a hypothetical and that I should talk to a lawyer to have them look over the law.
When I looked up whether it was ok to throw a bottle with a message into the lake or ocean on the Coast Guard website, this is what it said:
No, it is forbidden to throw waste into the sea, let alone a bottle! It is forbidden to do so on the grounds of the international MARPOl-treaty concerning pollution by shipping. This treaty handles spillages of waste or other materials originating from the normal working of a vessel. Annex V handles waste produced by vessels. 'Waste' includes all food and domestic waste, with the exception of fresh fish and parts thereof resulting out of the normal procedures aboard a vessel. It is forbidden to throw synthetic materials anywhere into the sea.
So even though it seems like a cool story, one should not throw a bottle into Lake Superior. The answer, it is illegal.