A coalition that includes the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC), the Golden Gate Fisherman’s Association (GGFA), and a number of other sportfishing, boating, outdoor retailer, and marine groups and organization warned in a letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Wednesday that new harbor craft engine emission regulations would have disastrous economic, social, and leisure repercussions round the state.
Due to pressure from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office and other state organizations to crack down on emissions in the same spirit as the new gas-powered car ban by 2035 law signed last year and the ban on new small engine gas powered machines by 2024 law passed earlier this year, the California Air Resources Board decided to go after emissions coming from boats. In the new Proposed Amendments to the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation language, the state would require all boat engines to be modified with technology to cut back on emissions. However, CARB found that the needed modifications either don’t exist yet, and even if built or would be too big to safely fit on most boats, necessitating the building or purchasing of new boats that are or can be compliant.
Faced with few options, those who can’t afford the changes or new boats by, at the earliest, January 2023, will be essentially go out of business.
In response to the proposed changes, expected by a vote by CARB on November 19th, the joint letter noted how bad it could be for California. In particular, the letter noted that, despite California being last among states in the number of fishermen per capita and seeing fishing license sales decline by 50% since the 1980’s, sport fishing has been back on the rise, with the state reporting a 19% bump in fishing licenses from 2019 to 2020. They also noted a diversification of those getting licenses, with women, Hispanics, and African-Americans being among the fastest growing groups, hinting at continued growth in the future.
With the increased sales on hunting and fishing licenses helping fund the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the rebound of the post-pandemic tourism industry, which includes whale watching boat trips, fishing charters, and other boat related activities, the groups in the letter argue that the new regulations would undo all of these recent gains and spiral many businesses to close permanently. As anglers alone bring in $5.6 billion annually to the economy of California, even a dent in the sector could prove to be disastrous.
A huge CARB vote expected on November 19th
“Economically, we’re looking at tourism and leisure associated with sport fishing and other activities that take place on these boats like whale watching and moving people on short trips, like to islands just off the coast,” said Roberta Gregg, a fisherwoman who became a lobbyist for multiple related industries, to the Globe on Wednesday. “That’s a lot of businesses, some of them iconic to California, that could be facing the chopping block. And that’s just economically.
“Socially, it would ruin the diversification the industry, traditionally more white and Asian, that is currently happening. Many people have been saying for decades to help bring people of all races and creeds and genders closer together, and the fishing industry has been doing that organically for some time now. And we can’t forget ecologically, as a lot of those fish stock programs to help keep the populations growing in California have been funded by the very people fishing them. You kill the fishing industry, you really harm fish stock programs.”
Others concurred with the massive consequences that would likely happen, including Sportfishing Association of California president Ken Franke.
“CARB’s regulations will have the unintended consequence of denying millions of Californians access to the sea as commercial passenger boat owners go out of business,” explained Franke in a press release on Wednesday. “CARB fails to recognize that passenger boats are a valued source of outdoor recreation and economic activity in California. For most Californians, these boats are their only access to offshore sportfishing and marine life.
“Additionally, CARB failed to consult with the CDFW to determine what impact declining fishing participation rates could have on conservation and fishery programs, both offshore and inland. Both fishing license sales and a federal excise tax on fishing tackle and boat fuel fund many of CDFW’s environmental programs with the Federal Government matching $3 for every state dollar contributed.
“When California’s 2 million anglers fish off one of the Nation’s longest coastlines, they buy fishing licenses that fund conservation and fishery programs that protect local habitat. Unfortunately, CARB did not evaluate the environmental and economic impact of regulations that will have a devastating impact on sportfishing and eco-tourism all along California’s coast.”
In addition, the letter to CARB also pointed out that many hospitality and tourism jobs would either be lost or reduced if the regulation is passed, going directly against Governor Gavin Newsom’s priority to restore jobs lost during the pandemic.
Public comment period on the proposed new regulations is to end on November 15th, With CARB expected to vote on the issue on November 19th.
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