Cover of the groudbreaking report that could help Maine Lobster Fishing fleet into stealth clean energy engines. Photo by Mark Fleming, LONE SPRUCE CREATIVE

March 9, 2022

By Ramona du Houx

Graph from the report EV on H2O

In 2020, the lobster fishery made up 79 percent of the value of all fish landed in Maine (NOAA 2020). Maine’s lobster fishery is the largest among the New England states..There are 4,686 registered commercial lobster boats in Maine, and an additional 10,000 Mainers work directly within the industry. Altogether, the lobster industry in Maine generates about $1.5 billion to the state’s economy. But the boats spew greenhouse gas emissions.

The carbon footprint of global fisheries is significant with an estimated 11 billion gallons of fuel, mostly diesel, combusted annually. This amount of fuel generates 179 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (mostly carbon dioxide, CO2).

In a new report released this week, EV on H2O, John Hagan and retired Friendship lobsterman Richard Nelson researched the feasibility of alternative power sources for lobster boats and encouraged boatbuilders, the lobster industry and others to look into the possibility of electrifying Maine’s lobster fleet.

The report recommended those interested to look into hybrid engines. either as a retrofit or possibly with a more efficient hull design for even greater emissions reductions.

Onboard the lobster crew has to breathe in fumes from diesel engines. The air particulates has been proven to be dangerous for one’s health. Over 9 million people die prematurely from fossil fuel pollution per year globally, according to a Harvard report.

Additionally the noise pollution lobster boats cause is a concern for many coastal residents.

From the report:

In a hybrid parallel system, an existing (or smaller) diesel engine and an electric motor are connected mechanically to the propeller shaft. The diesel can take over at higher loads (speeds) where it is most efficient, for example while transiting to the fishing grounds. The electric motor can be used at slow speeds where it is more efficient, such as when hauling traps. The diesel, with a generator (called a “genset”), could also be used to recharge the battery storage system required by the electric motor. While there would still be greenhouse gas emissions, they could be 30-40 percent less than conventional diesel systems.

Hybrid serial systems also have both a diesel engine and an electric motor, but only the electric motor is connected to the propeller shaft. A smaller diesel engine than is typical would function solely to generate electricity for the battery storage system that in turn supplies electricity for the electric motor (and other boat functions).

“We are such a perfect place to try these technologies,” said John Hagan. “We’re hoping that the report sparks energy and enthusiasm and people try to take up some of these ideas.”

Despite the lobster’s history of being a throw away commodity that was given to prisoners to eat For many years the American lobster has ranked among the most valuable of all fisheries in the entire U.S. Conserving this fishery is critical to Maine and its coastal communities.

The State of Maine is taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from burning fossil fuels. Maine has a goal of reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.