Regulations Threaten Fishing Boats

While I’ll spare you the details of the mentally exhausting 135-page report entitled, Evaluation of the Feasibility and Costs of Installing Tier 4 Engines and Retrofit Exhaust Aftertreatment on In-Use Commercial Harbor Craft, suffice it to say that the report’s findings are not fishing boat friendly. The report, commissioned by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), points out that the diesel engines used by sport fishing boats need to be replaced because they aren’t clean enough to meet California’s new emissions standards. While upgrading to cleaner-running engines might seem like a good idea, the problem that sport boats face is that the eco-friendly Tier 4 engines that the sport boats would need, don’t currently exist.

In layman’s terms, all of the added air cleaning equipment on the engines makes them too big to fit in the place of the less efficient engines they are replacing. While some boat owners might have the room to make extremely expensive structural changes to their boats to accommodate the much larger engines, the majority of sport boats would have to be taken out of service. While the CARB reassures boat owners that they would be free to sell their boats out of state and build new boats, that plan just isn’t going to work. Our sportfishing fleet is unique to Southern California, so not only would the boats not sell to people from other states, the staggering cost of building a new boat would cause the industry to collapse.

In an article in the Ventura County Star, boat owners Jaime Diamond and Joe Villareal explained the reality of just how hard these regulations would impact sport fishing in Southern California. “Even though boat owners have been proactively reducing emissions by repowering their engines to the cleanest marine engines on the market today, CARB, a board appointed by Governor Newsom, has proposed engine emission regulations that require technology not developed for commercial passenger vessels, nor deemed safe at sea.

What’s more, CARB concluded that the modifications they require are not structurally safe for some types of boats, leading them to conclude that “vessel replacement will be likely, especially the categories with wood or fiberglass vessels.” This is a stunning admission, for more than 80% of all passenger sportfishing and whale watching boats are made from these materials”.

So, CARB has concluded that boat owners like us should be mandated to build new boats as soon as 2023, which would at least double the cost of passenger tickets. Our existing boats will be deemed illegal and have no resale value. Even in the best of times, no small business can have their most valuable asset made worthless and then be told to go find an additional loan to rebuild their business.

Then there are the unresolved safety issues. CARB’s regulations require engines to have equipment installed that has not been thoroughly tested at sea. It is common for this type of equipment on trucks and farm equipment to create significant heat and severe back pressure on engines. Blocked exhaust systems may be manageable on land, but not at sea. Passengers could be adrift at sea for hours as boat crews try to recover the system. The worst-case scenario of a failed engine would risk the lives of passengers and crew.”

We need your help and the support of our state legislators and local representatives. Please help keep ocean access affordable and save the many families that operate local sportfishing and whale watching boats by joining our petition at .

Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California and Mexican waters. Erik is also an active freelance writer and the author of the weekly column So Cal Scene, which BD publishes every Friday. In So Cal...