Shoal and Hazard Marking

FOCA reminds members that any private markers should adhere to Transport Canada guidelines (see below),  and Associations considering the implementation of rock, shoal or navigational markers should first discuss the plans with their Insurance broker.

August 2020 – Safe Quiet Lakes hosted a webinar with Transport Canada about Signs and Buoys (YouTube; 1 hour) that includes information about what types of markers are permitted in-water.

September 2017 – congratulations to FOCA member group, the Haliburton Lake Cottagers’ Association, who have created a video about making navigation markers; Bob and crew manage the navigation program on the lake: Click here to link to the how-to video (YouTube)

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q.1. Can private citizens mark hazards?
A.1. Yes

Q.2. What kinds of hazards or navigational aids can private citizens mark?
A.2. Citizens can mark anything with appropriate private buoys, which must meet the Private Buoy Regulations, which include requirements for size, shape, colour, and symbols.

Q.3. How is Transport Canada involved?
A.3. Transport Canada gets involved when Private Aids are placed in contravention to the Private Buoy Regulations. They can issue fines and/or order removal if private buoys that do not comply with the private buoy regulations
For questions call 1-866-821-6631, or email the NWP Ontario Regional Office at

marking hazards with buoysQ.4. How is Parks Canada (Trent Severn Waterway, or Rideau Waterway) involved?
A.4. Parks Canada has policies for Trent–Severn Waterway and Rideau Canal regarding in-water and shoreline works and related activities such as use of mooring buoys, swimming buoys, rafts, and water ski courses and ramps.

Q.5. Does Association insurance cover shoal and rock marking?
A.5. Shoal or rock marking, similar to any other “Good Samaritan” acts, can unfortunately expose you or your association to a risk of being named in a Statement of Claim alleging negligence on your part. While the success of any action against you would require that you were determined to be “negligent”, by a court of law, legal defence costs can be very high. Coverage for these costs, as well as any compensatory judgement awarded by the court, would be covered by an association insurance policy. See links at the bottom of this page for more information about insurance.

Where Directors, Officers or volunteers, while acting behalf of your Association Board of Directors, are named in such a suit, they would also be afforded the full protection of an Association Policy.

In situations where individuals are not acting on behalf of the Association Board of Directors, they would not be protected under the Association Policy. It is likely if shoal marking is carried out by an individual and not on behalf of an Association, their homeowners liability could provide liability protection. It is up to such individuals to confirm coverage with their own Insurer or Broker.

In order to mitigate as much as possible, the risks associated with rock or shoal marking it is recommended the Associations observe the following:

  • Ensure that your Association Insurer is aware that you undertake this activity. There is typically a small additional premium for this exposure;
  • Establish a consistent procedure of where and when you will place and remove such markers;
  • Notify all members or property owners (when possible) of buoy placement and removal date;
  • Use Ministry of Transport approved hazard buoys or refer to FOCA for additional information;
  • It is advisable to place a disclaimer notice whenever possible. Newsletters can be a good opportunity to do so.

Essentially such notices should point out that although an effort is being made to mark some lake or waterway hazards, your Association is not responsible to ensure all hazards are marked or continue to be marked.

Every individual operator of a watercraft is solely responsible for safe boating including the avoidance of any water hazards.


Following is a list of vendors that have compliant buoys for sale.  Note this shouldn’t be construed as an exhaustive list, and none of these companies are endorsed by Transport Canada.

See also:

Transport Canada Signage Guide For Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations (VORR)

Michelle LewinShoal and Hazard Marking