Smooth Sailing with Clean Diesel

Peter Shelley | @peashell47

In 2011, CLF Ventures, the strategy-consulting arm of CLF, received a grant from the EPA to help two New England fishing/whale watching vessels replace the aging, inefficient engines on their vessels with cleaner-burning, more efficient four-stroke diesel engines. In this video, Captain Brad Cook of the Atlantic Queen II and Captain Chris Charos of Captain’s Fishing Parties reveal how the EPA grant and CLF Ventures enabled them to update their vessels’ technology, reducing emissions and substantially cutting their fuel use:

The EPA’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance program is designed to reduce air pollution and exposure to diesel fumes by covering up to 75% of the cost of an engine upgrade or repower. Replacing an outdated engine with the clean-burning technology used by Captain Brad and Captain Chris reduces asthma-causing particulate matter emissions by 63 percent and smog-producing nitrogen oxide emissions by 40 percent.

The program also cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by improving efficiency and reducing fuel use by up to 14 percent. Fuel use is a serious concern for the fishing industry. A 2005 report published in AMBIO revealed that in 2000, the industry consumed about 13 million gallons of fuel, or 1.2 percent of global consumption. If the fishing industry were a country, it would be the world’s 18th-largest consumer of oil—on par with the Netherlands. Fishing is also one of the only industry sectors to consistently become less fuel-efficient in recent years. With declining stocks sending fishermen farther from shore, this problem will only become more severe without significant investments and improvements in technology. Programs like EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Program play an important role in greening the fishing fleet and helping to make fishing more sustainable.

The program isn’t just good for the environment; it’s also good for fishermen. A more efficient engine can save a fisherman 9,500 gallons of fuel per year, cutting fuel costs and increasing profit margins. Crew aboard these vessels reduce their exposure to harmful diesel fumes, which were recently classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization and placed in the same category as deadly toxins like asbestos and arsenic.  Consumers asking for sustainable options will appreciate the reductions in emissions and fuel use, too, and recreational fishermen and whale watchers aboard vessels with new engines can enjoy a quieter, cleaner ride.

Still, new engines can only go so far in cleaning up the fishing fleet. The industry is built on technology that made sense decades ago, when fuel was cheap, fish were more plentiful close to shore, and consumers weren’t demanding sustainable seafood choices. Down the line, greening the fleet will mean rebuilding it from the water up and introducing lighter, safer vessels that inherently use less fuel.

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