The European Fisheries Sector believes that the EU cannot approach the fleet's energy transition strategy in a simplistic way

The European Fisheries Sector believes that the EU cannot approach the fleet’s energy transition strategy in a simplistic way. Photo: Cepesca

The European Fisheries Sector believes that the EU cannot approach the fleet’s energy transition strategy in a simplistic way

The European fishing sector has asked the European Commission to address the energy transition project of its fleet in a not simplistic way, but by analysing in depth the real possibilities of using carbon-neutral fuels and energy sources in fishing vessels, taking into account It takes into account factors such as the current technological development of these, the infrastructure necessary for their supply, the financing to address these changes, safety on board or the need to modify the size of the ships to accommodate new forms of propulsion.  

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On this point, the sector points out that the current Vessel capacity limitations established by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) hinder this objective and are inconsistent with the EU strategy to address this transition.

The sector, represented by Europêche, an organization of which the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (CEPESCA) is a part, thus responds to the public consultation carried out by the European Commission (EC) to define an energy transition strategy for the fishing and aquaculture sector that is in preparation for 2023.

In its response, the sector also believes that it is necessary to properly define the reference year to measure the reductions. In fact, Europêche points out, although the International Maritime Organization (IMO) leads the initiative to limit emissions from maritime transport by 50% in 2050, compared to 2008, the fishing sector , in addition to not being explicitly covered by this organization, since It has significantly reduced its emissions since 1990, the year that it requests as a reference .

In fact, and according to the data analysed and communicated by the EU since the signing of the Kyoto Agreement in 1992, the sector has reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by almost half compared to those of 1990, the base year for agreements on climate change.

Likewise, the power of the engine has been reduced by 59% compared to that same year and the new technologies applied have allowed a continuous growth in its energy efficiency (proportional ratio of the fuel used to make its catches). In addition, the sector recalls the permanent reduction of the European fleet, which currently has 65,000 vessels in operation (75% with less than 12 metres), compared to 103,800 in 1996 or 81,600 in 2018.

Security, space and profitability

According to the European fishing sector, zero emission energies, in addition to availability, profitability and existence of the distribution network and the necessary port infrastructures, must also be analysed from the point of view of safety for the crews and cannot be suppose an added risk to the one already implicit in the fishing activity. Thus, the sector refers to the fact that most alternative fuel sources are not in the current liquid form (diesel), but in a gaseous state and, therefore, more flammable, which constitutes a greater danger to safety.

Likewise, the sector affirms that these energy sources also require more space for the installation of new engines and propulsion technologies, which “clashes” with capacity restrictions in the EU in terms of gross tonnage. This problem, Europêche points out, is exacerbated in the case of small fishing vessels, which is why, in the opinion of the sector, this EU strategy would require a review.

In this sense, the sector believes that the “inadequate” definition of fishing capacity in the CFP is not only an obstacle to the modernization of the fleet, but also to social and safety improvements. In fact, the sector points out, the space used for the kitchen, cabins, toilets or leisure areas, is independent of that dedicated to storing fish and, therefore, to its fishing capacity.

Regarding propulsion alternatives, the sector points out to the EC that it lacks instructions from suppliers or policy makers on which technologies to invest in and recalls that many alternative fuel sources are only in the testing phase and are not adaptable to ships They operate for longer periods at sea. Therefore, it requests the creation of a group of experts (scientists, marine engineers and industry experts) to advise on the different alternatives available and identify the optimal ones for each segment of the fleet. In addition, Europêche points out, the new technologies offer a limited autonomy (5 to 6 hours), insufficient for a full day of fishing (up to 12-14 hours), not to mention the longer tides.

This committee should also consider the impact that improving the design and efficiency of the ship or the use of other technologies and areas of improvement (sail-assisted ships, improved hydrodynamics, changes from mechanical-hydraulic mechanisms to electrical ones or use of materials) may have. light in construction).

Depending on the sector, this European strategy must also consider the fuel savings and, consequently, the reduction of emissions (between 5% and 50%, he points out) that the optimization of fishing management implies. In this regard, remember that fishing companies have been working for decades with the scientific community to improve gear design and efficiency and many advances have been made in many innovative fishing techniques to increase selectivity, reduce contact and/or or seabed drag, and reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and fuel use.

Europêche also considers it essential to create a specific fund for the energy transition project and see how the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) and other sources of financing can support it. Even more so, he points out, taking into account that 86% of the EU fishing fleet is small-scale and innovative technologies and alternatives to fuels will require high costs and volumes. However, the sector says, currently the Horizon Europe fund does not have a specific call for fishing. In addition, there are strong financing limitations under the new EMFAF, since it only grants low percentages of aid for fleet investments and the subsidies are conditioned by the size of the vessels.

Likewise, says Europêche, given the lack of alternative fuel sources, possible taxes on fishing diesel will not drive any transition towards decarbonization, but will instead penalize the sector , already heavily penalised by current high fuel prices . For this reason, and according to the fishermen, until the new propulsion technologies are commercially available and the legislative framework allows the modernization, installation and use of such technologies, the EU should not introduce taxes on the fuel used for fishing operations .

The sector recalls that currently the crisis caused by the war in Ukraine forces fishing companies to allocate between 25% and 50% of their income to fuel and that many fisheries have recently been immobilized in ports since fishing operations have been became unfeasible due to the increase in these costs.

Finally, Europêche also recalls the additional training required to adopt new technologies and how public funding, currently focused on research and technological development projects, should also allocate budget for this purpose.

Source: Press Release

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No simple solution to EU fishing fleet energy transition

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