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Carbon emissions from India’s fishing industry is now getting the attention it deserves through a slew of innovations that include energy efficient fishing vessels and solar boats

The solar-powered boat designed by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology is suited for inland fisheries (Photo by Sharada Balasubramanian)

The solar-powered boat designed by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology is suited for inland fisheries (Photo by Sharada Balasubramanian)

Increasing carbon emissions from mechanised and motorised fishing in India has become a cause for concern. For instance, when a tonne of oil sardine, one of the most sought after fish variety in the southern state of Kerala, is fished and brought to shore in a kerosene-fuelled vessel, the operation releases 402 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Although fishing contributes to about 1% of fuel consumption in India, fisheries in India consume as much as 1378.8 million litres of fuel and release 3.13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, according to a paper titled Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Indian Oil Sardine Fishery of Kerala.

The carbon footprint of India’s fishing industry has not been given enough attention. However, things are slowing changing for the better. The Kochi-based Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) has designed and developed energy efficient fishing vessels and solar boats to address emissions in the fishing industry through a project called Green Fishing for Tropical Seas.

In order to design greener vessels, CIFT looked at the life cycle assessment (LCA) of fishing to estimate carbon emissions. They found that fishery activities in the Kerala coast add 807,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. About 670,000 tonnes of fish are caught and brought to the Kerala coast by mechanised and motorised fishing vessels every year.

Environmental impact of fishing

To look at the impact of fishing methods on the environment, study its carbon footprint and quantify the scale and importance of emissions in fisheries sector, it conducted a software-based energy analysis. This assessment looked at environmental burdens from the Indian oil sardine exploited by mechanised, motorised and traditional ring seine fishing systems in Kerala. The analysis encompassed various operational inputs on fishing activities — from fishing craft and gear construction, maintenance and service life of fishing system.

“Generally, to assess the impact of fisheries on carbon emissions, only the use of kerosene and petrol is analysed,” Dhiju Das, Researcher, CIFT, told “This study, however, is a cradle to grave study, which analyses almost 30-40 materials used for fishing, and carbon emissions from each of this material.”

The study analysed the materials used for a boat such as paint, iron rods, wooden materials, etc. It also looked at the use of fishing nets and analysed the actual fishing process to estimate emissions. “Different fishing mechanisms have different impacts,” Das pointed out. “Hence, we looked at which fish under which system has lowest and highest emissions, and how it can be reduced.”

The study showed that motorised units use 150 litres of fuel to produce one tonne of oil sardine whereas mechanised and traditional vessels consume 112 and 84 litres, respectively, for the same one tonne.

No fuel-efficiency norms

The primary reason for unnecessary emission during the fishing process on India is because there is not regulation on boat design, which poses a challenge to improve processes. “In India, there is no standard boat design,” MV Baiju, Naval Architect at CIFT, told “Hence, incorporating fuel efficiency features to control emissions is an issue.”

Das concurs. “Anyone can make a boat in India, unlike other countries. Fishermen make their own boats, and there is no standardisation,” he said. “In other countries, where fishermen have to purchase fishing gear, this can be controlled. But in India, it is not possible. How can authorities go and check every boat or fishing gear used by fishermen?”

Uncontrolled overfishing compounds this problem. The number of motorised and mechanised boats has gone up significantly in recent years. “There is no control on fishing in India,” says Das. “Only 300 ring seines should be operating in Kerala, but there are about 2500-3000 now.”

Seine fishing is a method of fishing that employs a seine or dragnet. A seine is a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets can be deployed from the shore as a beach seine, or from a boat.

“Hull design can reduce carbon footprint, but fishermen do not give much importance to that or the engine. If the hull is not immersed in the water properly, or is infested with organisms, the fuel use will be higher,” Das said. “This is why boat design plays an important role in energy efficiency.”

The Sagar Haritha designed by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology is an energy efficient fishing vessel (Photo by CIFT)

The Sagar Haritha designed by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology is an energy efficient fishing vessel (Photo by CIFT)

“As there is no standard design for fishing boats in India, the government consults us on the right size, safety, etc.,” Baiju, who designed the boat, told “To have a standard model, we designed Sagar Haritha, a multi-vessel that fits all the conditions for standardisation.”

The energy-efficient boat was built using a simulator that looked at actual conditions in the sea. “All commercial boats are generally 18-20 metres in size. In India, there is no approval needed for boat construction. Only registration is done. When the boat is in the sea with people, it is risky,” said Baiju.

Energy-efficient fishing vessel

The Sagar Haritha vessel was constructed at the Goa Shipyard by CIFT under a public-private partnership model. Here’s what makes the vessel energy efficient — a hull made of marine grade steel to reduce weight and improve carrying capacity; a 400HP engine power, which is 20% lower compared with a regular vessel; a 600-watt solar panel for lighting; and bulbous bow, which reduces wave resistance on the sea, improving energy efficiency.

“When the boat moves, waves are created. This model has a bulbous projection, which creates waves to counteract the waves on the sea. This will reduce resistance, leading to lesser energy consumption,” said Baiju. “A study from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) indicated that the resistance is reduced by almost 8-10% in this vessel.”

The Indian government wanted a sea liner subsidy schemes. CIFT has offered Sagar Haritha as a model catering to these specifications.

Sun boat for inland fisheries

In yet another innovation, CIFT has designed a sun boat for inland fisheries. Cochin-based Navgathi Marine Design and Constructions built this boat. The boat runs on solar power and is suited to inland fisheries and aqua tourism. The boat has a roof that can protect the fishermen from sun and rain, and has a clean wide storage space for fishes. It is free from noise pollution.

Baiju, who designed this boat as well, says, “The cost of boat is around INR 500,000 (USD 7,645), almost 2.5 times the cost of a normal motorised boat. If the fishermen fishes for 200 days in a year, with INR 1,000 worth of catch a day, the money could be recovered in two years.”

If the solar panels are charged for 4-5 hours, the fishermen can use the boat for two and half hours, perfectly suited for inland fishing. State governments need to promote the use of sun boats among fishermen, according to CIFT.

Rising fuel costs are already impacting fishermen’s incomes. Sun boats can minimise this risk. Even if they venture out to fish on a sun boat and return empty handed, they will not lose the money, unlike the case of diesel-powered boats.

Scientists from CIFT believe that by optimising vessel and machinery design, and using energy efficient harvesting technologies, carbon emissions in the fishing industry can be mitigated. “In India, subsidy is given for outboard engines, which actually consume more energy than inboard engines,” Das told “This must change.”

“India exports fisheries products. Today, the countries importing these products are looking at how we are fishing,” he pointed out. “Countries importing fishery products from India prefer a low energy fish catch tag on their product.”

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