General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Winner of the MedFish4Ever Award on innovative practices
in fishing technology

Assessment of carbon footprint of fishing fleet and application of decarbonization measures

University of Zagreb, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture

What is the project? 

A research group from the Faculty of mechanical engineering and naval architecture at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, has been working on several projects aiming to improve energy efficiency in fisheries and aquaculture. These initiatives have involved creating emissions indexes, researching decarbonization measures with an emphasis on alternative fuels, and exploring innovative technologies that focus on the grid and ship power system nexus. The long-term goal of the projects is the electrification of the fishing fleet in the Adriatic Sea.

The “‘Network of fishers and scientists” project is working with fisher cooperatives and university teams on the real-time monitoring of fuel consumption and is examining the potential of modernizing obsolete onboard equipment with energy-saving alternatives. The “Autonomous auxiliary fishing vessel” project has developed and tested an electric prototype vessel for purse-seining operations, aiming to reduce costs, improve environmental performance, and increase safety. Finally, the “Hybrid energy systems for fishing vessels” project is experimenting with hybrid engine systems as a gateway to creating fully electric vessels.

Why does this matter?   

This project has created a new network connecting fishers, scientists and administrators, fostering cooperation and promoting a more holistic understanding of the issues involved. The collaborative approach is making it possible to find solutions to meet both the environmental requirements of scientists and regulatory bodies and the functionality needs of fishers on board their vessels, helping to advance sustainability and attract a new young workforce to a sector that has been perceived as traditional and outdated. Project subsidies mean that fishers can modernize their boats to increase efficiency and reduce unwanted catches, while monitoring technology also provides management data and contributes to the fight against IUU fishing.

How is the project impactful?  

The most important findings of this project relate to decarbonization strategies for different vessel types (trawlers and purse seiners), by combining technical (alternative fuels or full electrification) and operative (speed optimization, hull maintenance optimization) measures. In addition, the project offers an excellent example of how effective cooperation between fishers and scientists can be to the advantage of both groups: scientists receive quality data directly from the source via the fishers, while fishers are able to influence future scientific research and development through their unique insights into the realities of fishing. Collaborations like this are spurring others in many different locations.

The project revealed important information through its development of the emission index, which was based on a system monitoring fuel consumption, GPS and vessel working time. This index enabled an overview of fishing activities, which improved the operational profiling of fleet segments. It showed that trawlers had emission values some 13–15 percent higher than purse seiners, while further experimentation showed that it would be possible to improve their efficiency by implementing new technologies such as a propeller with four blades instead of three. Simulations suggest that savings at different propulsion points would range between 2 and 5 percent, while one of the fishers involved in the trials noticed even larger savings in fuel consumption. As the regional fleet moves towards decarbonization, results from this project could have a wide impact across the Mediterranean.

Location and possibility of replication in the GFCM area of application 

The projects were implemented off the Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea. Croatian fisheries have a significant impact on overall capture production in the Mediterranean: at 5.85 percent of total production, its contribution puts Croatia among the top 10 countries. Most of the Croatian fleet consists of purse seiners and trawlers, which are also frequent in other parts of the region. So, while the case studies took place in Croatia, the emissions index and energy efficiency strategies are easily replicable in other areas.