Sonoma County sport fishing and whale watching operators, who cater to economically vital visitors, fear new California proposed emissions regulations may be a final nail in the coffin after COVID economic setbacks -19.
The sport fishing industry argues that these engine and emission control regulations are expensive and technically unworkable. Boat owners and operators say the proposed harbor boat regulations will have a disproportionate impact on commercial passenger sport fishing vessels, forcing them to make expensive upgrades from January 2023, rather than after the expiration of the life of existing boats or engines.
The proposed California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed amendments to the state’s commercial pleasure craft regulations would establish separate requirements for sport fishing vessels and commercial fishing vessels. The new rules would treat sport fishing operators like most other harbor craft, including ferries, tugs and barges.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on tourism and the sport fishing industry,” said Rick Powers, owner of Bodega Bay Sportfishing and president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association. Fortunately, most sport fishing boat companies survived the pandemic, but the timing of these regulations couldn’t be worse for them. If the governor is serious about rebuilding the state’s tourism economy, protecting sport fishing should be part of his economic stimulus plan.
The proposed new rules for sport fishing operators would require an upgrade to the cleanest engine available (Tier 3 or 4) in 2023, as well as the use of a retrofit diesel particulate filter by 2026. CARB says if filters are not available when needed, vessel owners / operators would be eligible for compliance extensions until they are available.
The bottom line, say local sport fishing operators, is Level 4 engines and a diesel filtration system will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The sport fishing industry is committed to reducing engine emissions, but the Newsom administration has proposed harbor boat regulations that disproportionately impact family operations by forcing engine technology that doesn’t has not yet been developed, ”said Ken Franke, president of the Sportfishing Association of California.
Captains say regulatory costs are so high that some boat owners will have to double the price of passenger tickets, making offshore fishing and whale-watching trips prohibitive for most families.
The Sportfishing Association of California surveyed its members who concluded that if the regulations are passed, within 3 to 6 years, many boat owners will go out of business. They say they can’t afford the modifications or buy new boats when the hulls cannot be structurally modified economically or safely.
And there can be safety concerns with the filters, which sport fishing advocates say have not been thoroughly tested at sea. To prevent an exhaust system from clogging, particulate filters Diesel have to run at high rotations per minute, which could cause problems for fishing boats trolling at lower revs and could lead to blocked exhaust systems and engine failure.
Reel Magic Sportfishing captain Merlin Kolb in Bodega Bay is worried. “It’s going to crush the industry and bankrupt me. The motors they want us to upgrade are not only available from the manufacturer, but they’ll also be so big that I can’t even fit them into my boat!
The sport fishing industry cites a Cal Maritime 2020 report commissioned by the CARB which concludes that cleaner-burning Tier 4 engines do not exist for marine applications. Air resource managers have a different perspective on this. “Tier 3 and 4 engines for the vessels in question are indeed available,” says Karen Caesar, Information Officer with the Air Resources Board, “and diesel particulate filters should be available by the time regulations will come into force. If they are no, CARB will allow extensions until they are available. Caesar claims that Tier 3 and 4 engines, certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have been commercially available since 2009 and 2016 respectively.
State regulators are in an awkward position with this one. They are caught between two powerful and passionate sides as they attempt to find a workable happy medium. Caesar states that “CARB’s mission is to promote and protect public health, well-being and ecological resources by helping to reduce air pollution from a wide variety of sources. We always recognize and consider the effects on the economy. We carefully and methodically consider all aspects when developing regulations and always include stakeholders at the table. “
Fisherman’s petition calls on Governor Newsom to save fishing, protect jobs
In response to the proposed regulation, the sport fishing community launched a petition calling on Governor Newsom to “save sport fishing”. Find the petition at https://www.savefishing.com/.