Skyrocketing fuel costs, aging fish boats and growing demand for sustainable seafood mean BC’s commercial fishermen need to invest in greener technologies and vessels.
Many fishermen—especially those based in rural coastal communities—believe a future exists for a highly nimble small-boat fleet that is diversified in several fisheries and that can efficiently delivery high-quality, branded products to conscientious consumers hungry for sustainable seafood.
The problem is overcoming the operational and capital costs of the small-boat fleet in order to tap market opportunities. In 2006, Ecotrust Canada partnered with Ucluelet fisherman Dan Edwards, and Phil Bolger and Friends Inc., a boat design firm in Gloucester, Massachusetts which has created a series of sustainable fishing vessel designs.
“What does a sustainable fishing boat look like?” asks Susanne Altenburger, Phil’s wife and a designer in her own right. “We have established criteria encompassing both the ecological and socioeconomic performance of the vessel. Ecological criteria include a low carbon footprint (fuel efficient) through low-resistance hull geometries and the use of largely renewable materials (i.e. eco-certified wood); and socioeconomic criteria focuses on low capital costs of construction, vessel safety, fuel efficiency to keep operating costs down, the ability to build locally with extant fishermen and a nimble design allowing fishermen to use the vessel for a variety of small-boat fisheries.”
“All in all,” she addes, “it’s cheaper to build, maintain and operate—a win for fishermen and the environment. Now, regulations restricting fishing vessel length need to be changed to allow for this leaner, longer and greener design.”
In 2006, Altenburger travelled to Vancouver Island, where Dan Edwards introduced her to local fishermen, boat builders and government officials. Bolger has produced a 32-foot workboat prototype that Ecotrust Canada is seeking to build.