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Proposed engine emission rule could impact San Diego sportfishing industry

Posted at 4:59 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 19:59:30-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — This November, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is expected to tighten emissions requirements for sportfishing and whale watching vessels, but industry leaders say the proposed rule would cause more harm to businesses recovering from the pandemic.

CARB says the emissions standards will help modernize the fleet of vessels and improve air quality for Californians living near the coast.

Ken Franke, with the Sportfishing Association of California, told ABC 10News that the industry is on the same page with protecting the environment, but that CARB's plan isn't the right one.

"First of all, the industry is completely supportive of emissions reductions, everyone cares about the environment. We've been on a path voluntarily of replacing engines and upgrading engines over the last 15 years. This new proposed rule requires machinery that doesn't fit on the vessels or has not been invested yet for these vessels, or has equipment that's never been tested at sea to make sure it's safe on these vessels," said Franke. "Our request is simply to the governor we need some reasonableness. We need to have CARB work with the industry on what will actually work."

The proposed regulations would require sportfishing and whale watching boats and all harbor craft vessels to replace or modify their existing engines to meet new emission standards by 2023.

Franke said the vessels CARB said will likely need to be replaced due to the proposed update would cost millions of dollars. He added that they are asking for the same consideration as plans proposed by the commercial fishing industry to use grant money to upgrade their engines with whatever currently exists, or a Tier 3 engine.

"They've given us the hard truth, in their view, of 'your vessels need to be taken out of service,'" said Franke. "That's it. We think that's unacceptable especially as we recover from a fragile period in the fleet of COVID. These folks are just getting back on their feet. To hit them with this right now is just disappointing."

In a statement, CARB told ABC 10News that assuming vessel replacement, ticket prices would increase about 14% to 28% of what they are today, but that sportfishing and leisure
customers are well-positioned to absorb those costs. CARB added that most of those boats impacted by the rule change are 40 or more years old.

Franke said he completely disagreed with that stance.

"We've asked them to do an economic impact report. They need to come down and actually meet with the businesses and study them. They have yet to do so ... It's going to cost way more than the percentage point they're talking about," Franke said.

Franke added that he believes the estimated price increases will also price out customers from lower-income communities and those who do not have easy access to the ocean.

In San Diego, more than 2,000 people work in the sportfishing industry and the industry brings in nearly $300 million a year, according to the Sportfishing Association of California.

The association has started an online petition to ask Gov. Newsom