The California Air Resources Board plans to require owners of certain commercial fishing vessels, such as those used for sport fishing and whale watching, to replace their old diesel engines with newer ones to reduce emissions that contribute to the coastal pollution, but small businesses say they could be driven. out of business.
State agency officials say many of the fleets used are among the oldest and dirtiest boats and their modernization will improve air quality for Californians living near the coast.
“California is regularly reported by the American Lung Association as having one of the worst air qualities in the country, and harbor boats are one of the top three categories of equipment in seaports that contribute to the risk. cancer from diesel emissions in neighboring communities, ”David Quiros, director of CARB’s cargo technology section, said. “Of the 18 categories of harbor craft, sport fishing boats are one of the three most polluting categories.
The proposed regulations would require sport fishing boats, whale watching boats, ferries, tugs and boats used for dredging to replace their engines or modify existing engines to meet the most stringent emissions standards, labeled Tier 4.
In September, the State Council is expected to have a final proposal ready with the details of a phased approach based on age and existing engine type. If approved at a later date, the requirements for engines to meet Tier 4 standards on boats will come into effect in early 2023.
The council, charged with protecting public health by cleaning up the air in California, first passed regulations for commercial pleasure craft in 2007, changed them again in 2010, and is doing it again now, has CARB spokesperson Karen Caeser said.
The new rules could affect up to 350 ships that operate in marinas from San Diego to the Oregon border.
Ken Franke, president of the Sportfishing Association of California, said that while the association and industry strive to keep the environment clean, the requirements proposed now are not achievable for many boats.
“This proposed new rule requires machines that do not fit on ships or that have not yet been invented for these ships, or that have equipment that has never been tested at sea to ensure that they are safe on these ships, ”he said.
He added that many players in the sport fishing industry have already upgraded their engines over the years to meet increasingly stringent emissions requirements.
He said the new standards would force many owners to rebuild hulls and massive, bulky particulate filters would limit passenger space by up to 42% and make ships less stable. He also said the associated costs would double the price of passenger tickets, limiting who could afford to be on the water to experience marine life in their natural surroundings.
The sport fishing association expects local governments and chambers of commerce to add their weight to the challenges of the latest proposal before CARB makes its final decision. Franke said he was visiting coastal towns in Southern California.
“We believe that if all city councils and chambers join with us, we can get the governor to change his position,” he said. The association has also launched an online petition, already collecting more than 10,000 signatures.
This week, Franke spoke at the Dana Point City Council meeting with Donna Kalez, who operates Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching, the port’s oldest company.
“Our request is simply to the governor: we need some reasonableness,” Franke said. “We need to get CARB to work with industry on what will actually work. “
Kalez told board members about the difficulties she foresees for her business and others under the proposed new regulations and how she had previously worked on re-engineering her boats with Tier 3 compliant engines. age of the boat, she said the change costs between $ 200,000 and $ 1 million per boat.
She used grants from the local district air quality management to help her modernize her fleet. The grants covered 80% of the cost.
“We have been in the port for 50 years and nothing has threatened our business like this proposed new rule,” she said.
Hoiyin Yip, also speaking at the recent Sierra Club board meeting, asked the board to devote as much time to a presentation from CARB staff “on the cost-benefits of these regulations for passengers, crew and the general public “.
Quiros said there are at least 22 models of Tier 4 engines approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, but agreed that most of the boats in question are probably too old to be able to use these engines.
“There is some confusion over availability and would they fit a 45 year old ship,” he said. “If nothing fits on the boat, they should take it out and sell it out of state.”
He said there would be extensions available on compliance.
“If the engines are not available for the ship’s design, the two-year compliance extensions can be renewed indefinitely or until an engine is certified,” Quiros said. “In cases where vessel replacement is the only option for compliance, up to six years of compliance extension may be granted if financial hardship is demonstrated. “
Franke also criticized the separation of the commercial fishing industry between the larger group that sells fish to the public and the smaller group that takes people out fishing, and for having made stricter requirements for these vessels. commercial passenger fishing. Both groups operate under the control of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“They created this small group of boats to be held to a higher standard,” Franke said, adding that CARB officials told him the group had an easier way to recoup its costs because he can collect it from customers rather than fishermen. having to pass their costs on to the wholesale fish market.
Kalez pointed out that his family business has taken more than 2 million people on the water since 1971. Among these were fishing trips donated for nonprofits and underserved communities.
Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching employs 75 people and annually recruits more than 50,000 people.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, at the state level, recreational fishing contributed $ 5.6 billion per year in economic activity, supporting nearly 40,000 jobs in California,” said Vickie McMurchie, executive director from the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce at the recent board meeting. . “I need not tell you that as the dolphin and whale watching capital of the world and, more recently, having received the first designation of whale heritage site in the Americas, fishing companies sport and whale watching are a major contributor to Dana Point’s economy, attracting tourists from around the world, supporting local jobs and generating tax revenue for utilities.
The Dana Point board agreed to send a letter to Sacramento opposing the new rule and requesting changes.
“This is a clear example of government overbreadth,” said Councilor Joe Muller. “It was put in place quickly without any thought of branching out to business owners. They are more environmentally conscious organizations than anyone else. It is their livelihood.
“Why not take a break and watch the impact? Let’s see if there is a technology that works for these companies, ”he said.
The association has already received letters of support from Senator Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, Newport Beach City Councilor Kevin Muldoon and Oceanside Mayor Esther Sanchez.
Muldoon, who signed a letter on behalf of the city and its port sport fishing and whale watching companies, could see the damage that could result from the new regulations, he said. “In the wake of COVID, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. “
CARB’s current draft proposal is scheduled for public comment on September 15. In November, council is expected to vote on the proposed new bylaw. Information: ww2.arb.ca.gov.