Peskotomuhkati Nation hopes new hybrid boat will set precedent for greener future | CBC News

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The boat will be used for lobster fishing and to conduct scientific research

By: Jacob Moore | CBC News

Four years ago at a fishing conference, Harry Sappier met a group who develop hybrid-energy boats. He saw what they could do with diesel-electric models.

But at the time, the company didn’t have a hybrid lobster boat.

“I said, ‘The Peskotomuhkati Nation are the ones that are going to be on that boat,’ because of its technology and its [carbon] footprints and everything else along those lines,” said Sappier, the program director for the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik, or the St. Croix River, in southwestern New Brunswick.

On Thursday, Sappier got to bring that boat home.


It’s a form of satisfaction,” he said. “That’s all my hard work and everything that the Nation has put forward.”

The boat was a joint effort between Aspin Kemp & Associates and the Peskotomuhkati Nation.

Sappier said that the Peskotomuhkati  are “all about conservation.” This boat, because it creates fewer emissions, sets a precedent for a greener future, he said.

“We worry about the ecosystem. We worry about the health of the waters and the fish.”

The boat will be used for scientific initiatives, such as a research program about microplastics and lobsters, as well as fishing.

Sappier hopes that when people see the boat, and when they see how it works, they get inspired to see how they may be able to shift to hybrids or other greener forms of powering a boat.

He would not say how much the boat cost to retrofit with the hybrid system, but said that because it is a prototype, the cost is high, but that will decrease as technology evolves.

He said the boat will be used for fishing in the fall as part of the Peskotomuhkati’s hybrid fishery program, a collaboration between three Nations in the United States and Canada. The Indigenous fishers sell half of what they catch and the other half they give to people in the community to feed them, said Sappier.

Fewer carbon emissions

Allen Roach, special projects manager with Aspin Kemp, said a lobster boat spends a lot of the day idling while traps are set and then later while hauling in the catch. He said the boat is designed to start the morning with the diesel engine, then later shut off and “fish the entire day on electric.”

Then, at the end of the day, crew would switch on the diesel engine for the trip back to the wharf. Every time the engine runs, it charges the battery, he said. And there are solar panels on top of the boat, as well.

“With the length of time that the lobster boats have to be on the water on the daily basis, to go fully electric is extremely, extremely difficult,” said Roach.

“For now, the best model that fits the industry is the hybrid model.”

Roach said that a diesel engine would normally run from six to 10 hours a day, but in the hybrid model the engine would run a maximum of two hours a day.

Restoring the future

Chief Hugh Akagi of Peskotomuhkati said that although the boat may help with conservation, he prefers to use the word “restoration.” To do that, he said, people may have to fish less.

Akagi said that he’s not sure if Peskotomuhkati will get more of these boats in the future. Now that they have the prototype, they want to study it to better understand how much of an impact it will have on carbon emissions and water pollution.

“We’d like to bring life back to the river,” he said. “That’s why we worked so hard.”

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