Tackle manufacturers, retailers and charter boat skippers are among a coalition of national and state organisations warning that new regulations could put Californian charter fishers out of business.
More than 20,000 anglers have also signed a petition pleading with state governor Gavin Newsom to ‘save our boats.’
The coalition has come together just weeks before the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is expected to rule on controversial engine emission regulations. Its concern centres on new rules it says are economically and structurally unfeasible for commercial passenger boats that provide millions with access to sportfishing, whale watching, eco-tourism and scuba diving.
CARB admits that the move means that many boat anglers will go out of business by January 2023 if they cannot afford to build or buy new compliant vessels that can house the mandated heavier diesel engines and equipment required.
In a letter to CARB, the coalition highlights the surge in fishing participation during the COVID pandemic, which included non-traditional, younger, more urban and more diverse participants. The coalition is concerned that if charter boats cease to operate, or ticket prices are increased to cover the extra costs, it will undermine progress made by the Californian Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in increasing participation and licence sales.
It say that CARB did not consult with the CDFW to determine the impact a decline in fishing participation could have on conservation and fishery programmes. Fishing licence sales and tax on fishing tackle and boat fuel fund many of the Department’s environmental efforts. The state’s fishing participation rate per capita is already the lowest in the US and CARB’s new regulations would increase the fragility of the situation.
“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,” said Ken Franke, President of the Sportfishing Association of California.
“CARB fails to recognise 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.”