If your fishing boat is less than 79 feet then starting Dec. 19, it looks like you will have to start complying with the EPA’s Small Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels Less than 79 Feet. That’s the whole title; the shortened version is sVGP. It’s designed to reduce incidental discharges for boats operating within three miles of the coastline and in the Great Lakes.

The sVGP will cover commercial fishing boats and workboats but not recreation or military boats.

The  sVGP is intended to prevent oil sheens like this. USCG photoOperators of about 68,000 commercial fishing boats will have to obtain the sVGP. Besides getting the permit, having annual inspections and keeping paper work current, a boat owner must use —unless technically infeasible — “environmentally acceptable lubricants in all machinery and equipment, including but not limited to stern tubes, wires, and two-stroke engines where discharges of oil to surrounding waters are likely to occur.”

You’ll also have to keep seals and equipment maintained. If you don’t have a Coast Guard approved bilge oily-water separator, you’ll need to put oil-absorbent material in the bilge to remove oil before pumping out the bilge.

There are numerous other rules to follow regarding such things as pumping fish holds at a dock, gray water discharges, hull maintenance, deck wash down, and solid and liquid waste management.

You can avoid penalties for most of these things by changing your normal work habits: use biodegradable soap, don’t top off the fuel tanks to avoid fuel going overboard, that kind of thing.

Complying with a lot of the rules shouldn’t be as expensive as switching lubricants. Environmentally acceptable lubricants can cost $1,200 for 100 liters, versus $350 for regular lubricants.

Like most regulations, there are many pages to the sVGP. To make things easier, Marpol, a training company in Middletown, Calif., will offer an online training course to explain in detail how to comply with the sVGP. The course begins in mid-October and costs $35. You will be able to reach the site online at svgp.us. In the meantime, you can find out more at www.marpoltraining.com or (415) 354-42128.

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