Fishing vessels wanted for energy audit pilot project

The Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation is seeking vessel owners for a fishing vessel energy audit pilot program.

The foundation notes that the high cost of fuel is a challenge that affects the entire seafood industry. More than 8,000 commercial fishing vessels are licensed in Alaska, and the operation of fishing vessels accounts for a large percentage of the fuel consumption in the seafood industry. 

This is a significant area to target for energy efficiency and fuel savings.

In response to the high fuel costs, the foundation is launching the pilot program to identify fuel savings through energy efficiency practices or upgrades aboard fishing vessels in Alaska.

The program will involve vessel owners having an audit done to get a baseline idea of their energy use, according to Julie Decker of the foundation.

“We know we’re going to have to collect some basic information about the vessel, the energy efficiency of the engine, any generators, all that kind of stuff ahead of time” she said. “Maybe take pictures of the bottom, so the auditor can put together some sort of a basic model of that specific vessel.”

After that, the auditor will do a walk-through of each vessel and measure the energy usage of all the on-board systems.

The first stage will involve three boats, and then the auditor and the foundation will tweak the program to get a better idea of what needs to be involved.

The second stage will be to line up the rest of the vessels according to size, fishery and port.

Decker said that the plan is to have vessels from several size ranges, fisheries and gear types, including seiners, gillnetters, crab boats, tenders and trollers as funding allows. 

According to other examples of vessel energy audits and management plans, fishing vessels have the potential to reduce energy use through improved efficiency by 15-40 percent.

Decker said that some of the efficiency measures are obvious, like traveling at slower speeds, but that one goal of the project is to put numbers to various measures and doing cost/benefit analysis.

For example, she said, “Will painting your bottom really give you a benefit over the cost of doing it every year?”

She said that some ideas will be old hat, but other things might be new, and that putting numbers to everything will increase the value of the data.

Some vessels have already volunteered to have fuel flow monitors installed, for example. For vessels that don’t have fuel flow monitors, it may be possible to install them for the audit, and/or possibly work with vessel owners to install them long-term.

The idea is to end up with a manual that boats of similar size or in the same fisheries may be able to use to reduce their costs of operation. 

“It’s sort of a work in progress, and I think we’re going to have some really good tools that come out of it,” Decker said.

Due to limited funding, the pilot project will be restricted to vessels from 30 to 125 feet in length.

To find out more about volunteering for the program, contact Decker at


The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery fizzled out with a co-op opening that netted only another 250 tons of fish after three competitive openings caught 5,600 tons of the 11,549 ton quota.

A substantial portion of the herring that returned this year gathered inside a roughly 10 square mile area close to town that the Alaska Board of Fisheries had set aside as a reserve for the subsistence harvest of roe-on-hemlock in the winter of 2012, putting them outside the reach of the seine fleet.

While fishery managers are not concerned about a lack of herring abundance, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska has been expressing alarm at the size of the commercial harvest for some time, especially in 2011 and 2012.

The 2012 quota was nearly 29,000 tons, although only 13,534 tons were caught. The quota in 2011 was 19,430 tons. 

The tribe launched a publicity campaign last year protesting the size of the quotas in an attempt to help people visualize what the numbers represent.

A series of ads placed in the Sitka Sentinel, the Ketchikan Daily News and the Juneau Empire stated that 29,000 tons is roughly equal to 58 million pounds. 

One of  the ads pointed out that that’s enough herring to cover a football field in 20 feet of the fish, and called the harvest “excessive.” 

The concerns are based on traditional knowledge. In an interview with KCAW public radio, Jeff Feldpausch, resource protection director for the Sitka Tribe, said, “If you talk to some of these elders who have been here — they were born back in the 30s — they talk about hundreds of miles of spawn throughout western Baranof, herring boiling on the water, as far as the eye can see. You don’t see that these days. It tells us these stocks are being managed under a shifted baseline. There’s less herring now than there was back in the ’30s. I know there are a lot of people who say we’ve got record herring returns. Well, it’s only a record since ADF&G has been keeping track.”

The state sets the harvest limit for herring at 20 percent of the estimated total herring in Sitka Sound, which this year came to 11,549. Feldpausch says the tribal government would have liked to have seen this year’s harvest around 7,300 tons. 

As it turned out, they got their wish for a lower harvest, and then some.

There has been growing concern globally about removing large quantities of forage fish such as herring, sardines, anchovies and squid from the ocean food web, considering their role in providing critical prey for salmon, cod, halibut, tuna, and other valuable fish species, as well as dolphins, whales, sea lions and other large marine mammals. 

Cristy Fry has commercial fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at