Fishing tournament attempts to ‘go green’

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Environmentally conscious Florida angler enlists a company that turns captured methane into electricity

Environmentally conscious Florida angler enlists a company that turns captured methane into electricity

Conserving fish for future generations is an obvious concern for today’s anglers, but how about reducing greenhouse gas? Dan Kipnis, of Miami, director of The Sailfish Tournament, says it ought to be a big concern.

That’s why Kipnis has organized the nation’s first carbon-neutral fishing tournament. The 57-year-old fishing captain, tournament organizer and conservationist has wooed sponsors to help buy carbon credits to offset the carbon dioxide that boats entered in his tournament spew into the air.

“We’re not going to stop boating,” says Kipnis, a Miami native and operator of The Reward Fleet, a pair of Miami Beach charter and party fishing boats. “That’s not going to happen. So why not try to mitigate the damage we’re causing? It’s no different than a company trying to lower its carbon footprint.”

Using well-established computations, Kipnis figures his Jan. 10-13 Sailfish Tournament at the Miami Beach Marina was responsible for releasing 199.2 tons of carbon dioxide into the air. That includes not just the emissions from the 23 30- to 60-foot sportfishing boats in the tournament, but also from vehicles carrying 100-plus anglers and organizers back and forth to the marina, emissions incidental to the manufacture of tournament T-shirts, boat bags and other goodies, putting anglers up in hotels, staffing the banquet, and supplying and cooking food for it.

“I calculated the full carbon footprint,” Kipnis says.

That’s nearly 200 tons of greenhouse gas that one tournament contributes to global warming. A drop in the bucket, perhaps, but Kipnis says it’s an opportunity to educate anglers – who are conservationists anyway, he says – in ways to start doing something about greenhouse gas, one of the culprits in global warming.

Kipnis says he can offset that 200 tons of carbon dioxide emissions that the tournament is responsible for by paying farmers to capture methane from their livestock waste, which not only reduces the amount of methane going into the air but provides a clean-burning fuel to generate electricity on the farm.

Kipnis says the $1,791 the tournament spent to offset that CO2 went to a farm in New York that is capturing methane and generating electricity with it.

As much as 20 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas comes from farms, mainly livestock waste, according to the PEWCenter on Global Climate Change. Though methane burns cleanly, if it is released before burning it is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a global warming agent, Kipnis says. That means a small amount of captured methane can offset a lot of carbon dioxide, he says.

Working with Environmental Defense, The National Wildlife Federation and the Florida Wildlife Federation, Kipnis buys “climate mitigation credits” through a middleman, AgCert, a Dublin, Ireland-based company that negotiates the sale of these credits by livestock operations in the United States, Mexico and Brazil to buyers that want to offset their carbon footprint.

The cost of the tournament credits was all borne by “environmental sponsors”: Merrill Stevens Drydock, a Miami shipyard; Ruwitch Foundation, a local charitable trust; Miami Beach Marina; Contender Boats; The Billfish Foundation; Florida Detroit Diesel-Allison, and 17 others who want to identify with a “green” cause, Kipnis says.

None of the entry fees – $2,500 a boat, with up to six anglers permitted on each vessel – pay for mitigation credits. Kipnis says a hefty 88 percent of entry fees still are returned to anglers in prize money in the catch-and-release tournament.

Kipnis says the logic of anglers helping reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the air is compelling. Carbon dioxide dissolved in the water is creating high levels of carbonic acid, which kills microscopic shelled plankton that are at the bottom of the food chain and essential for sustaining fish populations. Warming seawater and sea-level rise also are going to cause problems for some fish species, not to mention many human communities along the coast, Kipnis says.

Kipnis has been going out and telling other tournament directors what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Already one director, in South Carolina, is seriously looking at a carbon-neutral format.

“I think it’s going to be the norm in the near future,” says Jerry Karnas, Florida climate project director for New York-based Environmental Defense. “It’s just a small way that anglers can help.”