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Purse seine vessel deploying a FAD at sea. (Photo: PEW)

Pew estimates that up to 105,000 FADs are currently in use

WORLDWIDE
Thursday, December 06, 2012, 23:00 (GMT + 9)

An estimated 47,000 to 105,000 fish aggregating devices (FADs) are currently in use worldwide to catch tuna according to the Pew Environment Group. Pew released this first-ever estimate of the use of FADs at the recent Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting to bring attention to this growing and unregulated fishing technique. 

“The deployment of tens of thousands of drifting fish aggregating devices in the world’s oceans with little to no oversight is extremely worrisome,” said Amanda Nickson, director of tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group. 

FADs are used by fishers to attract tuna and other species of fish. They often extend 50m below the surface and can be made from a variety of materials, including bamboo floats, plastic ribbons, and old nets. 

They can be adrift for years at a time and attract a wide variety of marine life, including skipjack tuna, sharks, billfish, juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna. 

FAD fishing is widespread and growing because of its increased efficiency—the devices allow more fish to be caught with less effort. This method is used to catch almost half of the world’s tuna and is contributing to the overfishing of bigeye tuna across the Pacific Ocean. 

In addition, sea turtles, sharks and juvenile fish are often caught and killed in the process of FAD fishing; hundreds of species are attracted by the floating devices. 

"The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear," said Amanda Nickson, director, global tuna conservation.

Purse seine net being drawn in around FAD at sea capturing tuna and other species (Photo: PEW)

Scientists are unclear about the overall impact of wide-scale FAD use on the marine ecosystem, yet the devices are being deployed in record numbers. Additionally, thousands of drifting FADs are lost or abandoned by fishing vessels every year, compounding an already serious marine debris problem. 

“The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear,” said Nickson. 

The Pew Environment Group estimate was obtained from data gathered from published scientific literature, industry expertise and documents from regional fisheries management organizations that oversee tuna fisheries. 

At the WCPFC meeting, Pew called on governments to take action to require information sharing and other aspects of management and regulation of FADs. In the interim, Pew urges fishers, fleet managers and satellite-buoy companies, all of whom know how many FADs are deployed, to cooperate with governments, fisheries management bodies like WCPFC, and scientists to share their data on numbers, locations and whether the devices have been retrieved. 

Related article:

- Fisheries experts call for 30pc-cut in bigeye fishing 

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