Fuel cells trials for coastal fishing

Using a hydrogen fuel cell to power a small-scale fishing vessel has resulted in a 30% fuel saving, according to Patrick Lafargue, president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine regional fisheries committee (CRPMEM), which represents fishermen in southwestern France.

‘My son Nicolas Lafargue fishes from the port of Capbreton and he has a strong interest in the technical side of his work,’ he said.

The hydrogen fuel cell on board Cresus. Image: CRPMEMna / La cellule à hydrogène à bord du Crésus

‘A few years ago he tried out a combination of cooking oil and diesel, but without much success. Then he had the opportunity to try out a hydrogen cell on his 14.80 metre netter, and he didn’t hesitate.’

Seeing the 30% reduction in fuel consumption, as well as the reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases, the decision was taken to embark on project to investigate this technology further, with the aim of making it more widely available.

‘I wanted to set up a regional project which could be financed by national fisheries projects body France Filière Pêche, and the result is the GENHYPECHE project, which aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of a hydrogen fuel cell on board a trawler to reduce fuel consumption and particle emissions,’ he said.

Gillnetting is a key fishery for the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Image: A Balazuc / Les métiers du filet sont prépondérants en Nouvelle-Aquitaine

The second phase is now in progress, with the support of Affaires Maritimes, with the intention of making this technology available to any type of vessel, depending on the completion of a regulatory risk assessment.

Patrick Lafargue, president of the regional fisheries committee (CRPMEM) of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Image: CRPMEMna / Patrick LAFARGUE, president du comité régional des Pêches (CRPMEM) de Nouvelle-Aquitaine

‘If validated by Bureau Veritas, this will allow any vessel meeting the safety and compliance criteria to use this system, and we hope that the approvals will be in place by the end of 2020,’ Patrick Lafargue said.

‘With a growing awareness of environmental factors and the fishing industry’s current dependence of hydrocarbon fuels with their limited reserves, fluctuating prices and emissions, means that we have to look at new options. The GENHYPECHE project is part of improving environmental performance while reducing fuel costs. This could be an effective response to a challenge that the fishing industry will have to face.’

Meeting the lost gear challenge

CRPMEM Nouvelle-Aquitaine is also putting effort into reducing fishing’s environmental impact by minimising gear loss.

‘This project was comes from skippers observing the loss of nets. Most often this is because there is damage to the dahn marking the end of a net, either due to heavy seas or being towed away. Nets can also wear out and get lost on rocky ground,’ he said.

Hauling nets on board an Arcachon netter. Image: M. Meyer-Doye / Remontée des filets à bord d’un fileyeur arcachonnais

‘There’s an economic loss to the fishermen, with gear that needs to be replaced, as well as fuel and time expended looking for lost nets, and there’s also an ecological effect. Lost nets represent a significant source of plastic pollution. Such lost nets can also result in ghost fishing, so FIND project (FIlets coNnectés pour une pêche Durable) was initiated following requests from professional organisations.’

Supported by the university of Bordeaux and through the SPRING Ocean innovation programme and by local authorities in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Pays Basque regions, it aims to develop and test a locator device attached the nets.

Coastal fishing vessels in the port of La Rochelle. Image: A Balazuc / Bateaux de pêche côtiers amarrés au port de La Rochelle

Working on a passive sonar principle, a receiver on board a fishing vessel receives signals from an acoustic pinger on the lost net, and the receivers several hydrophones make it possible to triangulate the beacon’s position.

‘Depending on the conditions and the positioning of the hydrophones, it should be possible to pinpoint the position of the lost net and tow a creep to retrieve it,’ Patrick Lafargue said.

‘With long nets, more than one pinger would be attached, and to combine this functionality with another objective, frequencies are being selected for the pingers that are most likely to deter marine mammals from approaching the nets.’