Work to come

A new grant from the Coastal Conservancy will allow the San Mateo County Harbor District to work on a project at Surfer’s Beach. Adam Pardee / Review

The San Mateo County Harbor District last week voted to create a new fee for off-the-boat sales at Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina, a change from how the district historically has collected money from boat captains.

Starting Jan. 1, 2022, a 2.5 percent fee will be incorporated into the Commercial Activities Permit currently required by commercial operations in the harbors. The long-standing policy for fishermen conducting off-boat sales has been to purchase a Limited Commercial Activity Permit for a one-time fee of $290. The Harbor District staff indicated that it should eliminate the seasonal limited permit because most, if not all, of the fishermen selling directly off their boats are doing business year-round.

The Harbor District suggests the new fee will bring the fishermen in line with all other commercial operators in the harbor who are subject to similar operational fees. The permit requires the fish to be sold from the same vessel that caught it. The money collected will be invested in maintaining the harbor’s public infrastructure, including bathrooms, docks and parking lots that are all managed by taxpayer dollars, Harbor General Manager Jim Pruett said.

The new policy allows the owner of multiple boats and slips to swap boats into different slips as long as both vessels fit. The decision has been an ongoing topic for the Harbor Commission and its staff. At a Sept. 23 public workshop, stakeholders said they thought the owners of vessels who pay berthing fees should have priority on direct sales over visiting vessels. As the policy is written, only sellers with a berthing agreement in the harbor should receive a permit to sell off the boat.

Last fiscal year the district issued 68 limited commercial activity permits that resulted in $18,768.

Pruett said during periods of public input, some people suggested the district should keep the permitting requirements to a one-time fee as they thought it might be difficult to track and collect a percentage of gross sales over time. Pruett said the Harbor District could handle tracking percentage fees and that collecting them would be fairer for vessels regardless of their size or number of customers.

To track compliance, the district and each seller will use a tally sheet that will be due at the end of each quarter. The district said it can check the accuracy of the sheet by comparing it to the sales receipts required by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The percentage fee is equitable across the board, and it requires payment after the fisherman has collected the funds,” Pruett said. 

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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