activity-dine activity-more activity-play activity-shop activity-stay arrow-leftarrow-rightArtchevron-downchevron-rightchevron-up close download email gridlistlocationmime-default mime-link mime-pdf mime-video Parkspin search social-facebook social-flickr social-instagram social-linkedin social-pinterest social-rss social-twitter social-youtube berth-request-form blue-economy boat-launches breakbulk contact-the-port cruise-information current-rfps dine docks-and-anchorages drybulk economic-impact events faqs green-business-network harbor-police job-opportunities live-vessel-tracking news play port-events public-meetings refrigerated-avocados refrigerated-bananas refrigerated-pineapple shop stay tenant-resources tidelands-activation-program view-bidding-opportunities commercial-vessels current-conditions directions fact security agendas calendar cruise documents information jobs map meeting minutes notification parking permits reporting reports reservation rfps rules tap vendors video-play weather-cloudy weather-partly-cloudy weather-rainy weather-sunny weather zoom Skip to main content

Copper Reduction Program

The Port’s Copper Reduction Program will help to improve water quality and reduce copper in San Diego Bay.




A white small boat glides along the San Diego bay

Attention Boaters, Marinas, and In-Water Hull Cleaners

The Port of San Diego is implementing a temporary pause on in-water hull cleaning of boats with copper antifouling paint in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin (SIYB). In-water hull cleaning of boats with copper-based paint WILL NOT BE ALLOWED in the SIYB from Sunday, December 19, 2021 through Wednesday, February 9, 2022. Over this period, the Port will conduct frequent inspections to ensure compliance and weekly water testing to test the copper levels in the water. The Port expects to see a reduction in copper loads and improved water quality.

This in-water hull cleaning pause is in partnership with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and is part of the Port of San Diego’s Copper Reduction Program and ongoing efforts to improve water quality in the SIYB. At high concentrations, copper can be toxic to marine life. Our goal is to reduce copper pollution in the SIYB by 76 percent by December 1, 2022. This reduction is required by the Regional Water Quality Control Board which has identified the SIYB as an area where high copper levels exceed federal and state standards.

For more details, see the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

As the mechanism to implement the temporary in-water hull cleaning pause, the Board of Port Commissioners has adopted an amendment to Article 4.14 of the District Code, Regulation of In-Water Hull Cleaning.

For any questions, or for assistance in making an appointment to conduct any transactional business related to the In-Water Hull Cleaning Permit, please email

sign up for Copper Reduction Program Updates

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the temporary In-Water Hull Cleaning Pause?

As part of the Port of San Diego’s Copper Reduction Program and on-going efforts to improve water quality in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin (SIYB), and in partnership with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Board of Port Commissioners has adopted an amendment to Article 4.14 of the District Code, Regulation of In-Water Hull Cleaning, that requires the in-water hull cleaning of boats with copper-based antifouling paint in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin to be temporarily paused from December 19, 2021 through February 9, 2022. The pause is expected to reduce copper loads and improve water quality during that period. Weekly water testing will be conducted during the entire duration of the pause, as well as for four weeks before and four weeks after the pause.



When will the pause take place and where does it apply?

The pause period will begin on December 19, 2021 and extend through February 9, 2022 and will be only in Shelter Island Yacht Basin. See map in this flyer.

Will water quality be tested during this time frame?

Yes, water quality will be monitored weekly for four weeks prior to the temporary pause, throughout the entirety of the pause period, and four weeks post pause. The testing will check the dissolved copper levels in the water.

How will the pause to in-water hull cleaning be enforced?

Port staff will be conducting inspections at all Shelter Island Yacht Basin marinas and yacht clubs seven days a week December 19, 2021 through February 9, 2022. Port staff will be conducting dock walks to ensure divers are correctly checking in and are in compliance with the pause regulations. Port staff will be also be carefully checking the sign-in sheets to make sure all in-water hull cleaners have properly checked in to a facility prior to entering the docks. Remember, check-in is required even if a hull cleaner is cleaning a hull of a boat painted with a non-copper or non-biocide paint. Any in-water hull cleaning activities found to be occurring on copper-based antifouling paint in the SIYB during the pause are subject to a minimum $1,000 fine that will be issued immediately to the hull cleaner and the boat owner. The marina or yacht club may also receive a citation if they have been found to allow hull cleaners to enter their facility without checking in, or if they knowingly allow cleaning of copper antifouling paint during the pause. Hull cleaners should also be aware that repeat offenses during the pause period may result in immediate suspension or revocation of In-Water Hull Cleaning Permits and potentially other administrative, civil, and criminal enforcement.

What is the monetary fine associated with a citation?

Citations will start at a minimum of $1,000 and may be issued to divers, boaters and/or marinas and yacht clubs. If a diver is cited more than once, their business’s permit may be revoked for repeat violations.

I am a boater, will I get a citation if my copper-based antifouling paint is cleaned?

Yes, given that you have a hull cleaning service for your boat hull, you have an important role in ensuring that your hull cleaner does not clean your copper-based antifouling paint. The Port encourages all boaters to have a conversation as soon as possible with their dive company to discuss adjustments to schedules and remind their hull cleaner not to clean copper-based antifouling paint at all during the pause. As mentioned above, citations will start at a minimum of $1,000.  

I am a boater, what if I just get into the water myself and do a quick wipe of my boat hull?

Any cleaning of copper-based antifouling paint during the pause period is prohibited. If you choose to clean the copper-painted hull of your own boat, you run the risk of being cited. As mentioned above, citations will start at a minimum of $1,000.

I am a guest boat, am I allowed to clean if I have copper antifouling paint, even though I’m just here temporarily?

No. By choosing to rent a guest-slip in Shelter Island Yacht Basin between December 19, 2021 – February 9, 2022 you are required to adhere to the pause requirements in the same manner that permanent slip occupants must abide by. As mentioned above, citations will start at a minimum of $1,000.

What do I do if I observe the cleaning of copper-based antifouling paint?

It is critical that cleaning of copper-based antifouling paint does not occur during the pause. If you observe hull cleaning of copper paints, please report it to the Port as soon as you see it. Please call the Port’s Environmental Compliance Inspector at 619.686.6375. Please provide as much information as possible, including marina and/or yacht club name, slip number, identifying vessel feature (such as vessel name), dive company name, and date and time of observed copper-based antifouling paint cleaning. Upon receiving your call, the Port will promptly go down and address the issue.

I am a hull cleaner. How do I prepare for the temporary pause?

Work with your clients to schedule December and February cleanings before December 19 and after February 9. If you are still servicing zincs and other engine components during the temporary pause, please ensure you are properly checking in at marina and yacht club offices prior to entering the facility and continue to only perform the needed maintenance that is not the cleaning of copper-based antifouling paints.

If boaters in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin need to get their hulls cleaned during the pause, what can they do?

First, we’re asking that boat owners and hull cleaners prepare early for the pause. They can do one or a combination of several things:

  1. Make arrangements to have their boat hulls cleaned by an in-water hull cleaner shortly before and/or after the pause.
  2. Make arrangements to have their boat hulls cleaned at an alternate location outside of Shelter Island Yacht Basin.
  3. Make arrangements with a boat yard to have their boat pulled out of the water and cleaned.
  • Intrepid Landing is offering special rates during the pause to haul out and wash boats from SIYB. The service is available for power boats up to 40 feet and sailboats up to 45 feet – $100 for power boats and $75 for sailboats. The Port will be offering a subsidy that will cover half that cost, so the actual cost to power boat owners is $50 and $37.50 for sailboat owners. Contact Intrepid Landing at 619.269.7300 for more information or to schedule a cleaning with the special rate.

I am a boater with non-copper/non-biocide hull paint on my boat, does the pause apply to me?

No, the pause does not apply to boats with non-copper or non-biocide paint. The pause only applies to boats that have copper antifouling paint and are located in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin. Boaters who have switched to environmentally friendly non-biocide or non-copper paints have already taken the initiative to improve water quality and reduce copper. The Port thanks you for your actions.

As a boater, you may want to consider switching to a non-copper-based paint. Almost a decade ago, the Port converted its entire fleet, which includes Harbor Police vessels and service vessels, to non-copper hull paints with terrific results. Boats with non-copper paints can still be cleaned in SIYB during the pause. If you have a non-copper paint on your boat, please make sure you have documentation of the non-copper paint.

What documentation do I need to verify my hull is painted with a non-copper paint?

An invoice from your most recent painting or vessel sale that includes the full paint name, boatyard where it was painted, and the date it was painted. Be prepared to show that documentation to Port inspectors as they walk the docks.

Can other underwater maintenance be performed as long as the copper-based antifouling paint isn’t cleaned?

Yes. Other regular maintenance items may still be performed/completed during the pause if needed, such as changing out zincs and maintaining engine components, as long as the copper-based antifouling paint is not cleaned.

What happens upon conclusion of the pause?

After the pause period ends, hull cleaners can resume their normal cleaning operations for all boats within Shelter Island and other parts of the bay. Hull cleaning can start February 10, 2022. Water quality testing will continue for another four weeks until approximately early March. Once all the laboratory chemistry analysis is complete, the water quality data will be compiled into a report which will be posted to the Port’s website. It is anticipated to be finalized by the end of June 2022. This data set will help to understand the relationship of in-water hull cleaning to water quality. The data will be shared with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board which will help them determine what next steps are needed to achieve improved water quality in Shelter Island Yacht Basin.  

What is the issue with copper?

Copper is an essential trace nutrient that is required in small amounts by humans, other mammals, fish and shellfish. However, at higher concentrations, copper can be toxic to sea life.

In water recreation, copper is widely used in antifouling paints for boats as the paints have been shown to effectively slow the growth and/or prevent marine organisms from attaching to the hull. This helps to not only keep the boat clean but can prevent corrosion and help a vessel’s performance, i.e., achieve maximum speeds. However, the downside of copper-based antifouling paints is that they continually release copper into the water, which can build up in and near marina waters and harm marine animals and plants. This release of copper is especially exacerbated when boats with copper-based paint are cleaned in the water – large concentrations of copper can be scrubbed or sloughed off and released into the marine environment.

How does copper harm aquatic plants and animals?

Too much copper in water can have a variety of adverse effects on sea life. For example, high copper levels can negatively impact the sense of smell in fish, which they rely on to find food, avoid predators, and migrate. In some species, too much copper has resulted in reduced sperm and egg production, or abnormalities in larval stages of certain marine life.

What is a TMDL?

A Total Maximum Daily Load is a regulatory term in the U.S. Clean Water Act describing a plan for restoring impaired waters that identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. Shelter Island Yacht Basin has been identified as one of those areas where dissolved copper levels exceed the water quality thresholds and impair the beneficial uses within that water. The TMDL requires reductions of copper loading in Shelter Island Yacht Basin.

What are the current copper levels in Shelter Island Yacht Basin?

According to the Port’s most recent SIYB Annual TMDL Report (March 2021), there has been an estimated 48 percent (approximately 1,008 kg/yr) reduction in copper loading from the TMDL baseline of (2100 kg/yr) due to conversion of boats to lower copper or non-copper paints. Water quality testing shows the SIYB average to be 8.3 µg/L (California Water Quality Standards are set at 3.1 µg/L). The full report is available here.

How many boats are SIYB?

Approximately 2,169 total vessels are in the Shelter Island Yacht Basin, about 2,051 of which have copper-based paints. Approximately 118 have been reported that do not have copper antifouling paint.

What has been done so far?

The Port has converted all boats in our fleet to non-copper, non-biocide hull paints early in the TMDL. The Port continues to maintain a copper-free fleet which does not contribute any copper into the SIYB. The Port also provides regular education about the regulations and water quality to the boating community in Shelter Island and around the bay. The Port also conductive extensive research on alternative (non-copper) paints and assisted the SIYB boaters in voluntary hull paint conversion through the assistance of a state grant. Additionally, the Port embarked on an outreach campaign to raise awareness of and increase the use of alternative (non-copper) hull paints.  

Copper Reduction Program

The Port of San Diego is a regional leader in improving water quality in San Diego Bay. Through the Copper Reduction Program, the Port is engaging with the boating community to reduce levels of dissolved copper in marina basins around the bay as it can be harmful to marine animals and plants.

The Port’s Copper Reduction Program focuses on the largest source of copper - boat hull paints - and identifies an approach to improve water quality and achieve compliance with regulations while balancing economic and public interests. The Board of Port Commissioners Resolution (2009-230) champions copper reduction as part of its environmental stewardship mission.  

In San Diego Bay, Shelter Island Yacht Basin (SIYB) has been identified as an area where high copper levels exceed federal and state standards. A regulatory order 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. Together with the boating community, we’ve reduced copper loading in SIYB by 45 percent to improve water quality.

The Dissolved Copper Water Quality readings show regulatory listings for water body impairments around San Diego Bay. Below is a recent assessment of copper levels in San Diego Bay: 

Copper Levels in San Diego Bay


The Port's Copper Reduction Program focuses on:

  • Policy development and legislation related to in-water hull cleaning and hull paints
  • Conducting site-specific and baywide monitoring
  • Encouraging hull paint conversions 
  • Conducting hull paint testing and research
  • Conducting community outreach and engagement 

In-Water Hull Cleaning Policy Development

The Port of San Diego adopted In-Water Hull Cleaning regulations in 2012 to reduce or eliminate copper pollution caused by hull cleaning activities in San Diego Bay. The ordinance requires the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for anyone doing in-water hull cleaning. The In-Water Hull Cleaning Permit is a bay-wide permit that all businesses must obtain prior to conducting in-water hull cleaning services.

In late 2019 into early 2020, Port staff conducted outreach and engaged with the boating community regarding proposed amendments to the Port's proposed ordinance for in-water hull cleaning. To view all supporting documents and resources,click here. To access comments received during the draft ordinance public comment period,click here. The Port appreciates the engagement and comments received on the this topic. Port staff continues to evaluate the feedback and potential next steps.

The Ordinance (amended in 2021)

  • Requires the use of BMPs for any business doing in-water hull cleaning on recreational or commercial boats
  • Requires permits for all hull-cleaning businesses
  • Ordinance No. 3025

The Permit

  • All hull cleaning businesses are required to obtain a permit
  • The permit fee is $250
  • Appointments must be made to conduct any transactional business related to the Hull Cleaning Permit
  • List of Permitted Hull Cleaning Companies


*The Port is currently reviewing and seeking to update existing policies related to in-water hull cleaning. Until the review is complete, please send any inquiries regarding obtaining or renewing a permit to

Legislation Support

One of the goals of the Copper Reduction Program is to promote regulatory change at the state level and to develop local policies, procedures or permits to address copper pollution. Over the past several years, the Port has supported multiple state representatives and their regulations that impact the water and air quality.

The Board of Port Commissioners has also:

  • Supported the California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Pesticide Regulation's re-evaluation of hull paints;
  • Approved the Port's environmental department receiving a $180,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to study alternative paints;
  • Approved a State 319h grant for $600,000 to assist boaters in switching from copper-based hull paint to a non-copper alternative;
  • Approved three grants totaling $230,000 through the Port's Environmental Fund for outside parties to develop alternative hull paints; and
  • Approved projects aimed at reducing copper in water through the Blue Economy Incubator.


In-Water Hull Cleaning Survey

As part of our Copper Reduction Program, the Port of San Diego invited boaters, hull cleaners, and marina and yacht club operators and managers in the San Diego Bay boating community to participate in our In-Water Hull Cleaning Survey to help the Port better understand how vessels are being cleaned. 

Thank you to all who took the time to complete the survey! We received approximately 450 responses. 

The Port has compiled the data in a series of graphs and figures for the responses provided and is pleased to share the findings with you. Please find posted below the graphical summaries by survey group (boaters, hull cleaners, and marina and yacht club operators and managers).

The Port will be using the information to better understand the cleaning strategies used in San Diego Bay and inform potential next steps in our collective effort to improve water quality.

IWHC Boater SurveY RESULTS    IWHC Hull Cleaner Survey Results   IWHC Marina Survey Results

Hull Paint Conversion

Converting to non-copper hull paint is foundational to the Port’s Copper Reduction Program. Reducing the use of copper hull paint - a major source of copper pollution in marina basins - will help improve water quality.

 The Port is helping to spread awareness of non-copper alternatives by funding research projects, testing non-copper hull paints in San Diego Bay, and developing outreach materials and tools.

Leading By Example: The Port has converted all boats in its fleet to non-copper hull paints. The fleet includes both Harbor Police boats and General Services work boats.

Port of San Diego Harbor Police Boat zipping across the water

Sample Collection

Alternative Hull Paints


Copper from anti-fouling hull paints can be a significant source of water pollution in marina basins. Copper harms marine life by impeding or altering their development. As a result, boaters are encouraged to consider converting to alternative hull paints that are better for the environment. 

The Environmental Protection Agency provided funding for the Port of San Diego to conduct a study that evaluated a variety of alternative hull paints. The three-year study, “The Safer Alternatives to Copper based Antifouling Paints,” evaluated a variety of alternative hull paints. Twenty-one of these paints performed well when compared to copper hull paints and 11 were further tested in real-life scenarios on boats. The study concluded that alternative hull paints are environmentally-friendly, cost-effective and are an effective replacement.


Helpful Tools for Boaters

Boater’s Guide to Choosing Hull Paints in California

How to Select an Alternative Hull Paint

Non-Biocide Hull Paints (FAQs)

Boater Testimonials

Read what San Diego boaters have to say about their experience with eco-friendly paints.

Boater Testimonials

“I get underway about twice a month, I bring the boat up to its cruising speed for a few minutes, which I’m normally doing in my operation anyway, and all the marine growth flies off the bottom of the boat.”

~ Todd Roberts (Bottomspeed)

“The cleaning has been cut down…some boats it would take three hours to clean…and now… we can get in there and clean it in fifteen to twenty minutes. I can just use my glove to clean it. I can actually just use a glove!”

~ Thomas Hahn (Intersleek 900)

To join the mailing list for In-Water Hull Cleaning and copper-related information, click here.


Regional Harbor Monitoring Program (RHMP) 2018


Regional Harbor Monitoring Program (RHMP) 2013