Less than four weeks before the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is to decide the fate of 174 commercial passenger boat owners, the Sportfishing Association of California and the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association announced that 27 chambers of commerce and tourism authorities, representing nearly every coastal community from San Diego to the Oregon border, joined a coalition in defense of commercial passenger boat owners. The business coalition includes the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Travel Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the RV Park and Campgrounds Alliance and the California Parks Hospitality Association.
In its letter to the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, the coalition wrote;
“As you well know, sport fishing and whale watching vessels provide coastal communities with a valuable source of dollars for outdoor recreation and tourism. Their boat owners are on a mission to introduce millions of Americans each year to the splendor of the high seas and its wildlife. However, before these boat owners could recover from the financial losses associated with the pandemic, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed costly engine emissions regulations that require technology that has not been developed or safely tested on passenger harbor boats.
The letter continues, “Rebuilding the state’s post-pandemic economy depends on this continued growth and not undermining it by denying millions of Californians access to deep-sea fishing and marine life by shutting down sport fishing businesses or making excursions unaffordable for disadvantaged communities and the vast majority of Californians.
Sport fishing, whale watching, ecotourism, and dive boats can be found at nearly every port and marina in California. With the addition of sport fishing, boating and marina/harbor organizations, outdoor product retailers and tackle manufacturers, the Save Our Boats Coalition has grown to over 40 trade organizations and commercial.
During the pandemic, California lost half of its 1.2 million tourism and hospitality-related jobs, and Governor Gavin Newsom has made restoring those lost jobs a centerpiece of his economic plan. While coalition members applaud the goal, they don’t believe the economic plan is feasible without protecting the passenger boats that power coastal economies.
While commercial passenger boats represent less than 10% of all harbor boats, these family businesses are responsible for attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to coastal communities each year, generating billions of dollars in visitor spending. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s more than 2 million anglers contributed $5.6 billion annually to economic activity and supported nearly 40,000 jobs for our state.