The future of local sport fishing and whale watching boats is uncertain


As far back as most people can remember, local passenger sport fishing, whale watching and ecotourism boats have introduced Californians to the Channel Islands, drawing thousands of visitors each year to our littoral.

However, that may soon change. The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, slashing visitor spending and wiping out years of economic gains. Fortunately, family boat companies like ours have been able to maintain their operations. However, there is an imminent threat to our livelihoods that will do what COVID-19 did not – bankrupt us.

Even though boat owners have proactively reduced emissions by replacing their engines with the cleanest marine engines on the market today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a board appointed by Governor Newsom, has proposed emission regulations for engines that require technology not developed for commercial passenger ships, nor deemed safe at sea.

In addition, the CARB concluded that the modifications they require are not structurally safe for certain types of boats, which led them to conclude that “replacement of vessels will be likely, especially categories with wooden vessels. or fiberglass “. This is a surprising admission, because over 80% of all passenger sport fishing and whale watching boats are made from these materials.

Thus, the CARB concluded that boat owners like us should be mandated to build new boats as early as 2023, which would at least double the cost of passenger tickets. Our existing boats will be considered illegal and will have no resale value. Even in the best of circumstances, no small business can see its most valuable asset become worthless and then be told to go for an additional loan to rebuild its business.

Then there are the unresolved security issues. CARB regulations require that engines be fitted with equipment that has not been thoroughly tested at sea. It is common for this type of equipment on trucks and agricultural equipment to create significant heat and back pressure. on the engines. Blocked exhaust systems may be manageable on land, but not at sea. Passengers could drift at sea for hours as crews attempt to recover the system. In the worst case, a failed engine would endanger the lives of passengers and crew.

So this is it. Sacramento bureaucrats have crafted regulations so unworkable that boat owners will shut their doors and those who don’t will have a tough job to do keeping their passengers and crew safe. Collateral damage will be the many Californians deprived of access to offshore fishing and whale watching, a valuable source of outdoor recreation, marine education and economic activity.

We need your help and the support of our local legislators and representatives. No one in Sacramento seems to be listening. Help us keep access to the ocean affordable and save the many families who operate local sport fishing and whale watching boats by joining our petition at

Jaime Diamond is the owner of Stardust Sportfishing in Santa Barbara. Joe Villareal is the owner of Mirage Sportfishing at Oxnard.

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