A Better FAD for the World’s “Tuna Belt”
A marine scientist who studies a common fishing device’s impact on the world’s oceans – and how to minimise that impact – and a fisheries policy expert urge immediate action to adopt proven innovations.
About 60 per cent of the world’s canned tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. That means that the treaty-based organisation in charge of managing the world’s largest tuna fishery, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), has considerable responsibility when it comes to the sustainable harvesting of this living natural resource.
It is by no means an easy job to ensure that a highly migratory species like tuna is managed responsibly and with minimal ecosystem impact in the largest ocean region in the world. For the most part, WCPFC has been up to the task.
But the Commission has yet to adopt an innovative solution that research shows will significantly reduce the unwanted mortality of non-target species like sharks. One policy change—the adoption of a measure to require the use of what are termed “non-entangling fish aggregating device (FADs)”—could do just that. And, even better, such non-entangling designs do not adversely impact the success of fishing operations that rely on FADs to aggregate tunas.
Read more from Gala Moreno, Ph.D. and Claire van der Geest in a new guest article for Islands Business on the occasion of the WCPFC annual meeting.
Bycatch Report Examines Purse Seine Fishing’s Impact
Not setting on small tuna schools around FADs could reduce silky shark bycatch by up to 40%, depending on the ocean. Using non-entangling FAD designs can prevent sea turtle entanglement in tuna fisheries. To reduce whale shark bycatch, time/fishing closures in fisheries unfortunately do not appear to be effective.
These are among the ISSF research findings shared in “ISSF 2017-06: A Summary of Bycatch Issues and ISSF Mitigation Activities to Date in Purse Seine Fisheries, with Emphasis on FADs.” Our report considers bycatch issues, bycatch-mitigation practices, related ISSF research, and RFMO measures for these species:
- Whale Sharks
- Sea Turtles
- Small bigeye and yellowfin tuna
This Nov. 2017 update of a 2014 ISSF report is intended to be a useful reference for organizations and individuals working to make fisheries more sustainable: fishers and tuna companies, scientists, regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), government agencies, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) including conservation groups.
Reducing bycatch in purse-seine fisheries remains a priority and challenge. Purse-seine vessels harvest about 64% of the tropical tuna catch, and more than half of the total tropical tuna landings globally are made by sets on fish aggregating devices (FADs) or other floating objects.
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. To learn more, visit https://iss-foundation.org/, and follow ISSF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.