Proposed Boat Regulations Threaten Angler Access and Conservation Funding in California

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Pacific States Assistant Manager

Highlights

  • On November 19, the California Air Recourses Board (CARB) accepted public testimony on the Proposed Amendments to the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation that would impose costly new engine requirements for California’s sportfishing boats.
  • If adopted, existing boat owners would be required to replace or significantly modify existing engines as soon as January 1, 2023, to meet lower emissions standards. Unfortunately, these new requirements are not structurally or economically feasible and would result in many sportfishing boats being removed from operation.
  • Reduced sportfishing boats will decrease access to offshore fishing and marine life and could undermine recent progress made by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to increase fishing participation and license sales that fund the department’s conservation and fishery programs.

Why It Matters: California’s hunting and fishing license sales have been declining over the last several decades, which has resulted in decreased funding for conservation and wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays – public benefits” structure, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife through license and tags sales. To combat these declining numbers, state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and hunting/fishing organizations have all invested heavily in recruitment, retention, reactivation (R3) efforts and continue to identify strategies to increase participation in outdoor activities. However, proposed amendments to the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation threatens offshore fishing businesses and would reduce access for recreational anglers, hampering these R3 efforts.

In response to the controversial Proposed Amendments to the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation being considered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined together with a coalition of national and state organizations representing sportfishing, boating, marine organizations, harbor authorities and fishing tackle manufacturers in defense of California’s 2 million anglers.

In a letter submitted to the CARB Board ahead of the November 19 hearing, the coalition expressed concerns associated with engine emission regulations that are economically and structurally infeasible for commercial passenger boats that provide millions of Californians and visitors access to sportfishing, whale watching, eco-tourism and educational activities. The letter also highlighted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nation experienced a surge in fishing participation that included diverse audiences, and that removing sportfishing boats from service could undermine recent progress made by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to increase fishing participation and license sales that fund the department’s conservation and fishery programs.

A letter of opposition was also submitted to the CARB board by a bipartisan group of legislators, which included California Outdoor Sporting Caucus Co-Chairs Senators Dodd and Jones and Assemblymember Gray.

The CARB Board is expected to make a decision early next year. In the meantime, CSF will continue working with coalition partners in opposition to the proposed regulations. Additional information on the proposed regulations and the coalition can be found here.

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Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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