Pacific Whale Foundation’s Eco-Adventures

KIHEI, HI – Starting on May 15, the boats used for Pacific Whale Foundation’s Eco-Adventures out of Maalaea Harbor will be fueled with biodiesel, a new nonpolluting fuel made from recycled cooking oils and fats. The biodiesel is made by Pacific Biodiesel at their plant in Kahului. “We’re very happy to be taking this step,” says Greg Kaufman, President of Pacific Whale Foundation. “On our Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventures, we seek to educate and inspire people about ways they can help reduce pollution and protect the ocean environment.” “Now our guests can witness this alternative, nonpolluting fuel in action, helping to power the boats that take them whale watching or on snorkel cruises to Molokini,” says Kaufman. Kaufman adds that biodiesel smells like potato chips or french fries when burned, which is a huge improvement over the smell of conventional diesel fuel. Dr. Rob Wilder, Conservation Director at Pacific Whale Foundation, points out that biodiesel has many advantages over diesel fuel. “At the front end, it greatly reduces the need for traditionally dirty diesel fuel,” he comments. “And at the back end, after its burnt, it’s far cleaner, again preventing pollution. This raises the standard and helps to conserve our precious marine environment.” According to Larry Zolezzi, who cofounder Pacific Biodiesel with partner Robert King, the use of biodiesel results in a substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and almost all regulated emissions—good news in this age of concern about global warming. If accidentally spilled, it degrades much more rapidly in the environment. It has a higher flash point than diesel, meaning that it is safer to store, handle and use. It is also less toxic than diesel. Zolezzi notes that this new fuel is ideal for sensitive environments. “The marine market was where I most wanted to see biodiesel used,” he remarked. “It’s good to see that Pacific Whale Foundation is using it because Pacific Whale Foundation has four boats on Maui, carries lots of people and is sensitive to the marine environment,” said Zolezzi. Used cooking oils and fats from Maui restaurants are processed at the Pacific Biodiesel facility in Kahului, and converted to biodiesel. Before the biodiesel plant was built, these fats were collected and dumped into the landfill. Chemically, Biodiesel is produced through the reaction of a vegetable oil or animal fat with methanol in the presence of a catalyst to yield glycerin and biodiesel. It is legal for commerce in the United States and has been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a fuel and as a fuel additive. Pacific Whale Foundation plans to replace 50% of the fuel for Ocean Spirit and Pacific Whale, based in Maalaea, with biodiesel. There are no special adaptations needed to use biodiesel in the boats. In fact, boaters in Chesapeake Bay have reported improved power and performance when their boats are fueled with biodiesel blends. Sailboat owners have also reported that the lack of smoke from biodiesel powered vessels increases the quality of their sailing experience. “We have every reason to believe that our passengers will love it,” says Wilder. “We value our customers, because to use biodiesel, they do have to make a financial commitment,” says Zolezzi, noting that biodiesel costs more than diesel. Currently biodiesel is used to power tractors on organic farms, county wastewater trucks and the airport shuttle bus of the Grand Wailea Resort. The company also produces and sells the fuel on Kauai and the Big Island, and is hoping to expand to Oahu. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Eco-Adventures won the “1998 Investing in the Environment” award from Island Business magazine for its eco-friendly practices and policies. For example, whenever marine debris is encountered on a Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventure, the crew stops to pull it out of the sea, usually to the cheers and applause of passengers. “We’ve pulled up everything from 20 foot ropes to giant tangles of discarded fishing net,” says Kaufman. “It’s a great opportunity to tell our guests about the problem of marine debris in our world’s oceans.” Pacific Whale Foundation also uses paper rather than plastic products on all boat cruises; has a recycling program on the boats and in the offices and a “keep it tuned for energy efficiency” policy for its boats. Pacific Whale Foundation’s staff was instrumental in setting up a recycling program at Lahaina Harbor and have helped install mooring pins to protect popular reef areas. Pacific Whale Foundation’s newest vessel, the 54-foot catamaran Ocean Explorer, is Maui’s most eco-friendly vessel. It was built with high-recycled content marine grade aluminum rather than timbers from giant trees or other nonrenewable materials. The aluminum material has been left unpainted above the water level to reduce the need for toxic paints. Its design utilizes special features such as an enhanced muffler system and a skewed propeller to reduce the underwater noise generated by the engine, a move to protect sound-sensitive whales and dolphins. “Our biggest positive impact on the environment is through visitor education,” says Kaufman. “Through our Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Adventures, we have reached more than a million people around the world, helping them to understand the marine ecosystem and the need for marine conservation. Closer to home, that means we’ve helped visitors understand why they shouldn’t walk on coral (it kills it) or engage in fish feeding while snorkeling (it upsets the natural balance of the reef).” All profits from Pacific Whale Foundation’s Eco-Adventures help to save the oceans, by supporting Pacific Whale Foundation’s research, education and conservation programs. “Pacific Whale Foundation’s Eco-Adventures operates by all the same government laws and tax regulations as other for-profit activity companies. “It’s just that our emphasis is on education and role-modeling rather than making money and at the end, all of the profits generated support the work of saving whales, dolphins, reefs and the marine environment,” says Kaufman. Pacific Whale Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and is Maui’s oldest and largest marine research, education and conservation organization. For more information about Pacific Whale Foundation, call (808) 879-8860 or visit their website at http://www.pacificwhale.org.