In December, the recently created European Fisheries Technology Platform (EFTP) – who have set up five working groups looking at various aspects of innovation in fisheries, in a platform open to industry and researchers – published reports of the three 2012 thematic workshops. These reports form key inputs to the EFTP Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda for 2020. The EFTP was created ‘to promote the transition from an obsolete and traditional sector to a competitive, sustainable and modern sector’. It argues that research and innovation are particularly important for the European fisheries sector, where it is necessary to increase the sector’s profitability by reducing costs, while engaging in sustainable and responsible production.
Issues regarding the reduction of the energy costs received particular attention; cutting energy costs is both an important element for the sustainability of the fisheries sector, including the reduction of its carbon footprint, and a vital part of the sector strategy. Currently, fuel costs represent, on average, 55% of the total running costs.
Research suggests that some fishing vessels’ energy inefficiency arises from poor vessel design and the fishing gear being obsolete. In future, energy efficiency must be given better consideration in fishing vessel design (propulsion mechanisms, etc.). Important savings can also be obtained from optimising navigation and from strategically reducing speed: reducing speed by 7% leads to a 16% reduction of fuel consumption. New fishing gear technologies also play a key role in energy efficiency: adaptations of doors and trawl nets can reduce consumption by up to 40%. Changing the engine is an expensive possibility, which only leads to 10% savings in energy costs.
EFTP hopes that the priorities for research and innovation it identified will be considered for EU funding opportunities for the fishing sector. Regarding energy efficiency onboard fishing vessels, the EC clarified that there will be support available under the future fisheries fund (EMFF), as a ‘resource-efficient Europe’ is one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy. Such support will be available provided that the fishing capacity of the vessel is not increased. Engine replacement or modernisation will be excluded; although this increases the ability to catch fish, it is not most effective in terms of improving energy efficiency, and is certainly the most expensive change on a vessel.
Given the current state of exploitation of many ACP fisheries resources, improving the profitability of the fishing sector through increased catches is not realistic, and therefore, cutting down on energy costs is also an objective for ACP countries. This platform provides an interesting forum for the private sector and researchers to exchange ideas and test innovations to achieve such goals. It may be of interest for ACP countries, with the support of their EU partners, to facilitate a platform for exchanges between the ACP sector and technology researchers, so that innovations can also benefit the ACP sector.