Spanish tuna fleet cleans up FADs in the Seychelles
The Organization of Associated Producers of Large Freezer Tuna Freezers (OPAGAC), an amalgamation of nine Spanish companies that own a combined 15 tuna seiners involved in tuna fishing around the Seychelles, is calling on the remainder of the regional tuna fleet to remove fish-aggregating devices (FADs) from the waters around the island nation.
In September 2016, in concert with the Seychelles Fisheries Authority, the Island Conservation Society, and the Island Development Company, OPAGAC initiated a program called FAD Watch to track FADs and remove them when they move close to environmentally sensitive areas. OPAGAC recently renewed its one-year contact with the consortium for a second one-year period, and has called for the companies operating the remaining 37 purse-seiners fishing near the Seychelles to do so as well.
“[OPAGAC] invites the remaining 37 purse seiners from other countries to start similar projects with the objective of eliminating the environmental impact of these devices at the end of their useful life and preventing them from being stranded on reefs or beaches,” the organization said in a press release. “Now is the time for other fleets to join the project to help the Seychelles to achieve reef and beach environments completely free of FAD waste in the near future.”
FAD Watch tracks FADs through both monitoring software developed by Satlink and Marine Instruments as well as directly from the OPAGAC fleet. When the risk of a FAD drifting into sensitive area, such as a coral reef, ICS follows up by removing the object and storing it until it is recycled.
Data from the project is being used to better understand the environmental impact of different types of FADs, with the goal developing eco-friendly FAD designs, OPAGAC said.
“We are very satisfied with the result of this pioneering project…which has allowed us to advance in our commitment to the sustainability of the marine ecosystems in which we operate,” OPAGAC Managing Director Julio Morón said.
As a further part of its efforts to lessen its environmental impact, OPAGAC has recently created a biodegradable FAD, in collaboration with the AZTI Technology Research Institute. In a pilot project, Opagac deployed 100 of the biodegradable FADs in the Indian Ocean to evaluate their durability and effectiveness to catch fish under real conditions of use, the organization said in a press release.