My View: 'Smart' boating technology and the Gloucester waterfront
My View Susanne Altenburger The Gloucester Daily Times Mon Dec 13,
2010, 10:26 PM EST
Our community has constructively invested in the future of our Harbor
with both the 2009 Harbor Plan and the 2010 Gloucester Harbor Economic
In light of being "at the end of the road," ' but also at this prime
location for water-borne commerce ' there are a lot of challenges and
opportunities to maximize what we've got, what we are good at, and
what we can be good at.
I've just returned from the first global conference on "Energy Use in
Fisheries." NOAA, the United Nations and the World Bank co-sponsored
the four-day event in Seattle. Just about every aspect of the
economics and sustainability of the commercial fishing industry was
discussed by specialists from 18 countries ' from South Korea, Japan,
Thailand, Australia, over India, Nigeria, Europe to North America.
Among those invited to give a presentation, I was one of the few not
affiliated with universities, institutes, environmental groups, or
Perspectives from around the world were offered on the relative
energy-intensity of a broad spectrum of fishing-industrial processes
(for more, visit www.energyfish.nmfs.noaa.gov).
From that of the fish feed in aquaculture, over fuel-intensity of
fishing methods, the legacy of fuel-intensive boat design, to the
damage of resource, fleets and ports by unbalanced regulatory dictates
based on outdated assumptions such as cheap fuel.
Repeatedly emphasized in Seattle was the destructive impact of such
failures on the jobs and tax-base of fishing-communities.
My late husband, Phil Bolger, and I had recognized over the years that
the industry's sustainability depends on an integrated understanding
of its three vital structural elements. In Seattle I outlined the
'Tripod of Sustainability," consisting of:
Leg 1 ' Sustainable resource management, based on stock-assessment and
emerging eco system knowledge, on-going for decades;
Leg 2 ' Sustainable fleet structure, based on least-carbon vessel
economics and fleet practices, largely ignored in science, research,
policy and regulations;
Leg 3 ' Sustainable shore-side infrastructure, typically in
socio-economically well-evolved communities, also often a dismissed
afterthought in regulations. That's also one reason why Gloucester
joined the lawsuit against the latest most disruptive regulations.
While "counting fish" alone, as in Leg 1, has clearly proven
insufficient, the most disturbing aspect to us as designers of boats
has been the persistent absence from the regulatory agenda of the
urgent need to support the fleet's evolution toward Leg 2 in order to
cope successfully with the specter of $5/gallon of diesel.
Since 2002, a barrel of Oil went from low $20s to $148 in 2008 to
currently around $80.-amidst the Great Recession. Most experts in
Seattle accepted projections of further substantial fuel-cost
increases and thus the need to prepare for this de facto
While you could try to 'go fishing' sitting on the breakwater with
just a rod, for industrial harvesting of seafood inshore and offshore,
there is no way around the need to use fishing-craft.
And as Seattle reiterated once more, there is an urgent need for
advanced boats combining highest fuel-efficiencies with highest
flexibility to shift fishing-methods to nimbly match the cyclical
appearance of various species.
Offering a major opportunity to re-generate jobs-and tax-base,
Gloucester Harbor's marine-industrial zoning offers full support to
make our port a regional leader in the development and production of
Instead of reacting after "taking it on the nose" again and again from
dubious regulatory regimes, Gloucester can and must proceed
pro-actively to be at the cutting edge with "smart" vessels first for
fishing, and then governmental and institutional duties, and finally
the vast U.S. pleasure-boat market.
Fortunately, both Mayor Kirk and the Chamber of Commerce's Bob
Hastings have stated that we need to build sustainable craft to have a
Remarkably, despite her deep roots in ecology-driven science, the
absent host of this conference ' NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco '
has by late 2010 never proposed any research toward "smart" fishing
craft in support of the industry.
That may leave us to get this going, with state and congressional
delegation assistance to harness federal funding for "shovel-ready"
Once prototypes are proven, fishermen can leverage federal
loan-guarantees and favorable tax-schedules to migrate into types fit
Susanne Altenburger is the widow of Gloucester-based and
internationally-known boat designer Phil Bulger and now carries on his
boat-building through Phil Bolger & Friends Inc.