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Copper Reduction Program

Recreational boating is a popular pasttime in Southern California, where the bays and harbors are filled with thousands of boats. While this leisure activity brings significant benefit to California's economy, it can also cause environmental challenges.

Copper has recently been found to be prevalent in the water throughout California's marina areas. Extensive studies have shown that copper anti-fouling hull paints are a major source of the copper pollution. These research findings have prompted regulations in San Diego Bay.

  pdf Copper Hot Spots San Diego Bay - Map  (513 KB)

Copper is added to hull paints for the same reason pesticides are used on lawns to prevent infestations of insects or weeds. The copper acts as a biocide, or a substance that slows or stops the growth of living things. When applied to boat hulls, biocide reduces the growth of barnacles, sea squirts, and other organisms that can hamper boat performance. However, the copper can build up in small marine creatures, slowing or altering their development. It may have impacts farther up the marine food chain, ultimately affecting local wildlife such as fish and other marine life.

In San Diego Bay, Shelter Island Yacht Basin has been identified as an area where high copper levels exceed federal and state standards. A pdf regulatory order (1.40 MB) requires the Port of San Diego, marinas, yacht clubs, hull cleaners and boaters to reduce copper pollution in this area by 76 percent by 2022.

The Port’s Copper Reduction Program will help to achieve compliance with regulatory requirements to reduce copper in the bay and the Shelter Island Yacht Basin.

The program is comprised of the following categories:

The program focuses on the largest source of copper (e.g., boat hull paints) and identifies an approach to improve water quality and achieve compliance with regulations, while balancing economic and public interests.

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