As fishermen, we fish. We have devoted our lives, and in some cases given up those lives, to feed our communities, our state, and our nation.
Our workspace is limited to the size of the vessel we find ourselves on. Our workplace is the ocean and all the beauty, vastness, and temperaments it brings. Our workday almost certainly ensures that no one day is like any day that preceded it. We may pull pots, troll lines, set nets, or make sets all day; but what we see and what we encounter along the way differs each day.
At this time, there are numerous actions both known and unknown; and planned or proposed, which could have profound impacts on each of those, and on our ability to contribute to the nation’s food security.
This advice is neither new, nor should it be controversial: safety first. We should all be constantly checking our workspaces for anything that could be deemed unsafe; and immediately take corrective action. Regularly scheduled inspections of your vessel and your vessel’s safety equipment should take place. Ensure that each crewmember understands the safety procedures of your vessel and knows where to be and what to do in the event of an emergency. We are depending on you to provide all of us with a sustainable source of protein. Please do so safely and in a manner that ensures that all of you are able to return to your families at season’s end.
On April 1st, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) published draft regulatory language amending regulations to reduce emissions from diesel engines on commercial harbor craft operated within California waters and 24 miles of the California baseline. Commercial fishing vessels are included under the CARBs definition of commercial harbor craft.
Under the proposed regulatory language, “Beginning January 1, 2023, a person who owns, operates, sells, purchases, offers for sale, leases, rents, imports, or otherwise acquires an in-use commercial fishing vessel with a pre-Tier 1 – or Tier 1-certified marine or off-road engines may not own, operate, sell, purchase, offer for sale, lease, rent, import, or otherwise acquire an in-use engine, or a commercial fishing vessel, unless that engine meets U.S. EPA certified Tier 2 or higher emission standards by the applicable compliance date set forth in Table 17.”
Table 17 defines the compliance date for any pre-tier 1 or Tier 1 certified engines on commercial fishing vessels. If your current engine model year is 1987 or earlier, you must have an engine meets U.S. EPA certified Tier 2 or higher emission standards by Dec. 31, 2030. If your current engine model year is 1988 – 1997, the compliance date is Dec. 31, 2031. If your current engine model year is 1998 and later, the compliance date is Dec. 31, 2032. There are, of course, many other nuanced items contained in the 113-page draft regulatory language.
There is legislation in Congress and various statehouses that may directly or indirectly impact our workspaces.
Our primary workplace is the ocean; but we also rely upon the buyers/processors we sell to, places we berth, the shipyards where we haul out, etc. The ocean conditions are dynamic and changing — ocean-acidification, hypoxic areas, marine heat waves, etc. There are, however, a number of other threats to our workplace that cannot be described as naturally occurring phenomena. Unless you have been stuck at sea or living under a rock for the past six months, you know that there are rapidly growing plans for offshore wind off the U.S. coast.
On March 29, the Biden Administration unveiled the other 30 x 30 initiative (more on that below). This called for the “deployment of 30 Gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.” On May 11, the Biden Administration announced its final approval Tuesday for Vineyard Wind, marking a major milestone for the first industrial-scale offshore wind project in the country.
On May 25, the Biden Administration and the California governor announced an agreement to advance development of offshore wind off California. On June 8, the Department of the Interior announced it would explore offshore wind energy potential on the Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
Along the California and Oregon coasts, we expect additional Call Areas to be announced by the fall; and recently learned of interest to deploy an offshore wind facility off the Washington coast.
In January, President Biden signed an executive order titled Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Executive Order 14008 established a goal of “conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.” This is the 30 x 30 initiative you may have heard about. On May 6, the Administration was presented with a report entitled Conserving and Restoring America Beautiful, which provided the first glimpse into how the Administration may accomplish the goal outlined in the Executive Order.
On June 8, Representative Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, an updated version of a bill he initially offered in the previous Congress to modernize federal ocean management policy to account for climate change. The bill “limits climate impacts on marine habitats, promotes carbon sinks in federal waters, advances Arctic conservation efforts with climate change in mind, modernizes fishing fleet fuel regulations and takes other steps to align ocean policies with modern environmental and economic reality.”
The bill, all 290 pages of it, covers a wide range of topics, some of which will be of more interest than others.
On June 10, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced it will amend a previously issued order requiring the wearing of masks by fishermen working on a commercial fishing vessel. On June 11, the United States Coast Guard announced mask wearing “in outdoor areas of maritime transportation conveyances and hubs is no longer required.”
We consider fishery management measures to be included under this heading as they can impact your workday. There are countless efforts ongoing in the federal government and numerous states which could have such impacts. As we type this, the Pacific Fishery Management Council is ongoing, and there’s no shortage of topics being discussed, debated and decided upon that could impact your workday.
Conclusion/Call to Action
This month’s column was intended to be one singularly focused on offshore wind, but we shifted gears and decided to focus on the plethora of things that are potentially on the horizon. The above represent some of the challenges facing the fishing industry. We are sure that your fishery, location, etc. will have its own unique issues.
We started this piece off by stating as fishermen, we fish. That is true; but as fishermen we owe it to our profession and our fellow fishermen to be educated on the issues and involved in the process.
For some, that may mean rolling up your sleeves and participating in the management process – for example, by being on an advisory body of your Regional Fishery Management Council or by calling in and offering public comments on items of concern before your Council. For others, that may mean keeping abreast of developments ongoing in your area and offering public comments on matters of importance to you.
It also could mean joining your local association and being involved as much, or as little, as you like. If you truly do not have the time or bandwidth, you can always financially support those associations you feel represent your interests.
Mike Conroy is the Executive Director of both the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), the west coast’s largest organization of commercial fishing families, and its sister organization, the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR). He is also currently on the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel and nominee for a seat on the PFMC. He can be reached at the PCFFA/IFR Headquarters Office, PO Box 29370, San Francisco, CA 94129, (415-638-9730), Email: Mike@ifrfish.org. PCFFA’s Home Page is at: pcffa.org.