Reducing FAD Marine Pollution & Ecosystem Impact: 8 Recommendations

ISSF and the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project have released the report, ISSF 2018-19A: Workshop for the Reduction of the Impact of Fish Aggregating Devices’ Structure on the Ecosystem, of a recent workshop that examined options to reduce the impacts of fish aggregating devices (FADs) on the ecosystem.

The workshop brought together tuna skippers, fisheries improvement project (FIP) coordinators, and fisheries scientists working in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, where FADs are used extensively by commercial tuna fishers.

About 40% of the world’s tuna is caught with FADs. Traditional FADs are large structures, typically with buoys, netting, or other components made of long-lasting, plastic materials. When FADs are lost or abandoned, there are impacts associated to marine litter and interference with other economic activities as tourism.

Lost FADs can persist in the ocean for years as marine litter, or damage vulnerable habitats such as coral reefs. Plastics used in FADs that remain in the ocean can break down into smaller micro-particles and could enter the food web. The Fisheries and Aquaculture department of FAO estimates that 640,000 tons of fishing gear, including FADs, are lost at sea annually.

Concluding Recommendations
The workshop resulted in eight initial recommendations for continuing research and actionable steps to avoid or minimize FAD ecosystem impacts:

Recommendation 1: Develop a guide of good practices for tuna purse seiners and auxiliary vessels with the aim to reduce the loss and abandonment of FADs, as well as to facilitate their collection.

Recommendation 2: Quantify strandings: Identify main beaching zones by establishing priority areas based on the vulnerability of the habitat and the degree of stranding. If possible, based on real FAD trajectories, collaborate with ship owners and buoy manufacturers or, failing that, use FAD drift models.

Recommendation 3: Simplify the structure of the FAD as much as possible. Conduct studies to find simple structures that meet the needs of the fleets.

Recommendation 4: Study the trajectories of FADs based on the position and time of deployment to determine the deployment areas with the highest risk of FAD loss and causing ineffective fishing effort.

Recommendation 5: Study the dynamics of deployment and stranding events in fishing areas close to shore, in order to better manage those areas (change deployment zone, limit deployment according to distance to coast, or season of the year — with reference to currents — use anchored FADs, etc.).

Recommendation 6: Conduct pilot studies at sea of FADs with navigation capacity to better understand the behavior of these FAD “drones” and the possible strategy for their use.

Recommendation 7: In the projects on FAD retrieval from the coast, ensure the efficiency of the collection system, determine the minimum requirements for the vessels that would recover FADs, as well as ensure the proper management of the waste on land.

Recommendation 8: Carry out workshops in each ocean with the participation of scientists and fishers to define the potential solutions and recommendations of this document, based on the characteristics of each ocean.

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About the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — the world’s leading conservation organization — promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. Helping global tuna fisheries meet sustainability criteria to achieve the Marine Stewardship Council certification standard — without conditions — is ISSF's ultimate objective. To learn more, visit, and follow ISSF on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.