ISSF: Manage FADs based on data
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) has reported the results of year-long research focused on the tuna industry’s use of fish aggregating devices (FADs).
The results will be published later this year in a peer-reviewed science journal. Presented at the Committee on Fisheries meeting in Rome, the research details how the scientific community is working to close gaps in data and mitigate the negative impacts of FAD usage. According to ISSF, the report takes a coordinated and thoughtful approach to analyzing existing data and identifying areas that need further study as well as data that need to be collected and reported.
ISSF said that work needs to be done to improve the way FADs are used by tuna fishing vessels worldwide, and fisheries managers must ensure that FADs are managed like all other fishing gears. Rather than abandoning FADs, the scientific community has stepped up to help find real-world solutions to help vessels fish more responsibly.
Silk and oceanic whitetip sharks are the two non-target species most negatively impacted by the use of FADs. Data shows that purse-seine vessels are not responsible for the majority of the fishing mortality of these species; aggressive work must be continued to find solutions so that fishers targeting tuna catch far fewer of the vulnerable sharks.
“The use of floating objects in tuna fisheries elicits a wide range of responses,” said Victor Restrepo, chair of the ISSF scientific advisory committee. “Fishers that use floating objects praise them for improving catch rates, which they do, while some conservationists see their use as detrimental to the greater marine environment, which they may also be. The truth is that FADs have, like all fishing methods, both positive and negative impacts. Part of the fear that people have of FADs is largely due to a lack of comprehensive data on FAD usage.
“We are convinced that FADs need to be monitored and managed like any other fishing method,” he continued. “Any tuna stock can become overexploited if the catches are higher than what the population can product. This is as true for FADs as it is for any other fishing method. But this does not mean that FAD fishing necessarily results in overfishing.”