Story last updated at 2/6/2013 - 1:39 pm
Volunteers are needed to test drive some new money-saving methods for "do it yourself" energy audits on fishing boats.
"Just as with a home audit where you try and understand where your energy is going, you can learn how your vessel is consuming energy and find places where it might be wasted or not used as efficiently as possible, and frankly, most fishing vessels are not very energy efficient," said Terry Johnson, a marine advisor with Alaska Sea Grant in Anchorage.
Johnson is part of a team working on a three year project to find ways to reduce fuel and energy needs by fishing businesses. The project, led by Julie Decker, is administered by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation with a $250,000 assist from the State. Starting this spring, the group plans to test various fuel catalysts and additives, and perhaps hydrogen generators on volunteer vessels.
Meanwhile, Johnson is focused on do-it-yourself ways to get better energy performance with existing boats.
"Look for heat and vibrations and smoke - we think of those things as normal, but those are all wasted energy and they shouldn't exist. Look for ways to minimize that," he said.
Checking drive lines, being sure all bearings are in good condition and properly lubricated, tightening up steering and better route planning also can reduce energy demands. Johnson said propellers also are a big "frontier" in improving efficiency.
"Most traditional fishing vessel propellers are of a very old design and often mismatched to the boat. There are lots of ways they can be tuned to be more efficient," he said.
In other countries, fishing boats rely heavily on auxiliary sails, Johnson said, which also have a great stabilizing effect. Paravane stabilizers commonly used by longliners and seiners, are tremendous energy sinks, sapping about 15 percent of fuel.
"They suck a lot of energy out of the engine. If you can reduce the use of stabilizers by using a sail, you get a significant savings right there," he said, adding that active fins are another energy drag. Find out more about the F/V energy audit program at www.afdf.org
You catch it, You eat it - The bycatch to food bank" program by Bering Sea trawl fishermen and processors has come full circle.
Twenty years ago, the fleet began a program that let them retain salmon, halibut and other species taken as bycatch instead of discarding the fish, as required by law. The fish was processed, frozen and packaged and sent to food banks across the nation.
Now, the fish is staying in the state and feeding Alaskans. The Western Alaska Community Development Association, comprising the region's six CDQ groups, led and funded the program starting last year. WACDA urged all Bering Sea fishing companies to retain all bycatch, and share the cost to deliver the fish to food banks and feeding centers in Alaska.
"That added up to 300,000 seafood meals in Alaska last year, from fish that would otherwise be thrown overboard," said Jim Harmon of SeaShare, which connects the seafood industry to national hunger relief efforts. A similar bycatch to food banks program also is underway in the Gulf of Alaska.
Fish farmers pan Frankenfish - Fish farmers and fish harvesters can find common ground when it comes to opposing genetically tweaked salmon, or Frankenfish.
"I think we absolutely don't need it," said Josh Goldman of Australis Aquaculture, the world's largest producer of barramundi, a sea bass that is Australia's most popular fish. Australis has won numerous high standards awards for its growing operations in Massachusetts and Viet Nam.
Fish health and growth rates can be improved with "good old fashioned selective breeding," Goldman said in a phone interview. "We can make fantastic gains in the productivity of fish without resorting to genetic modification."
Goldman added that it's clear that consumers don't like the idea of manmade fish. That's backed up by the more than 35,816 public submissions to the Food and Drug Administration by last Friday, nearly every one strongly opposed to manmade fish.
"I think it is pretty clear that the consumers do not want genetically modified animals, and the industry would be wise to stay away from it," he said. "Anyone who is going to do well in business will listen to their customers very carefully. Many in the salmon industry have been quite clear that they are really not interested in that GM technology today."
Another common ground fish farmers and fishermen have is getting Americans to eat more seafood. Despite an aging population and an obesity epidemic, American consumption of seafood has been static or declining in recent years.
"Collectively, farmed and wild producers should be doing more to make seafood attractive and presentable to the consumer," Goldman said.
The fish grower had high praise for Alaska's seafood industry, saying that Australis "emulates" the way Alaska highlights the health benefits of its seafood and the way it is produced, and its commitment to sustainable fisheries.
"It is regarded very, very well because at its foundation, Alaska has done a better job than most other parts of the country and the world in having sound management of its fishery resources, and the fact that it's been more science than politics. That has really set an example - and I think that message rings through to the consumer about well-managed fisheries. So there is a lot to be proud of," Goldman said.
The sustainability message has definitely caught on and is expanding, he added.
"It's not always clear to what extent it translates to the consumer making the buying decision, but the industry as a whole is taking it very seriously," he said.
Most large retailers today have some means of communicating their sustainable seafood support to customers, and the movement got a huge lift last week when McDonald's announced it would be the first national chain to put an eco-label on packages of its fillet of fish sandwiches and new Fish McBites, made from Alaska pollock.
Most of Alaska's seafood goes to market frozen - another notch on the sustainability niche. Goldman said an emerging area in the movement is more sophisticated analysis of carbon footprints.
"It turns out that is probably equally or more important than how we grow or harvest the fish," he said. "So we put a lot of emphasis into frozen products because there is such a large reduction in the carbon content required to get it to market."
The deadline to comment to the FDA on genetically modified salmon is February 25. http://www.regulations.gov Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0899
Fish watch: The 2013 Pacific halibut fishery begins March 23 and ends November 7.
Figure 1 Paravane roll dampening system www.tc.gc.ca