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Lake Ontario Deepwater Fisheries Science Program

Conservation Innovation Award

Award Recipient

Alan Fairbanks - Captain of the Research Vessel (R/V) Seth Green at Cape Vincent Fisheries Station.

Summary of Accomplishments

Captain Fairbanks is being recognized for his outstanding contributions to our Lake Ontario Fisheries Deepwater Science Program. Consistent with our desire for continuous improvement in our programs, Captain Fairbanks constantly has his eye set on improving the science program, and brings an immense skill set to that task, including expertise in biology, CAD design, custom metals fabrication, electronics/electrical systems, gas/diesel engine mechanics, and hydraulic systems, to name a few. His extensive computer design, fabrication, and mechanical skills has saved the Department in excess of $100,000 in consulting and contracting services.

Alan has designed and fabricated a number of devices to improve our use of hydro-acoustics to assess preyfish populations, and has contributed significantly to designing and executing a research program to better understand the value of hydro-acoustic technology as it relates to alewife behavior. His comprehensive knowledge has also led to improving the quality control of our trawling activities on the Research Vessel (R/V) Seth Green. He has replaced steel cables and chains that were affecting trawl geometry, and advocated for and oversaw the purchase of "trawl mensuration" electronics, which allow for real-time monitoring of the vertical and horizontal opening of the trawl while it is fishing. Use of this equipment revealed the need for further trawl construction and procedural changes, which Captain Fairbanks expertly executed. His expertise and initiative has significantly helped to improve the statistical rigor and validity of our fisheries assessments.

Research Vessel Seth Green
R/V Seth Green at Cape Vincent Fisheries Station.

Captain Fairbanks has also worked on overdue maintenance issues with the R/V Seth Green, and some of the many improvements he has completed include:

  • Replacement of the vessel's 40kW generator and associated hydraulic pump.
  • Design, installation and modification of new deck winches.
  • Design and installation of an in-hull hydrophone.
  • Re-build of the Crosely net-puller.
  • Design and installation of trawl door fendering.
  • Replacement and improvement to the vessel's electrical and hydraulic systems.
  • Installation of a custom air conditioning system for the pilot house and crew quarters.
  • Replacement of the vessel's 2,600 pound Caterpillar main engine with a smaller, lighter, more powerful and energy efficient John Deere engine that meets EPA Tier 4 emission standards (not yet mandatory in the marine industry).

In addition to his sweeping mechanical and design expertise, Captain Fairbanks has also been very focused on vessel and crew safety. Conducting deepwater science surveys are very challenging and demanding, requiring highly specialized vessels and equipment, and requiring staff to live on the vessel in confined quarters, and sometimes during inclement weather for seven or more consecutive days. Successful and safe scientific data collection are dependent upon a competent vessel captain and crew, and a well maintained vessel and associated equipment. Captain Fairbanks faithfully conducts staff training in vessel emergency preparedness, and maintenance and periodic replacement of safety equipment. He also has made sure AED's was purchased for the vessel in 2003, long before they were required. Captain Fairbanks also focuses on environmental responsibility by researching and replacing traditional vessel operation fluids/lubricants with environmentally responsible alternatives, including greases and hydraulic fluid.

In summary, Captain Alan Fairbanks has made the Lake Ontario deepwater science program the best it has ever been, and the R/V Seth Green is in many respects a better vessel now than when it was delivered new in 1985. He's also a great husband to wife Maureen, and wonderful father of daughter Carley and son Ryan.

Go back to the main page to find more Conservation Innovation Awards

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