Participation doubles in The Nature Conservancy’s Palmyra Atoll dFAD removal program

Palmyra Atoll.

The Palmyra Atoll FAD Watch Program – an initiative of Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.-based global environmental nonprofit The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – has more than doubled the vessels participating in its program to 19 and has increased the size of the geofence it uses to collect biomass data near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

The program is the first drifting fish aggregation device (dFAD) partnership in the Pacific Ocean, and its goal is to remove dFADs before they can harm sensitive and protected marine areas surrounding the Palmyra Atoll. 

Among a handful of partnerships, the Asociación de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores (AGAC) – a Spanish purse seine fleet company – is one of the most recent to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the program. The MOU outlines a commitment for both entities to jointly protect the atoll, according to a press release from TNC.

“The collaborators I’ve worked with, I’m convinced that they genuinely do care and are interested in dFAD management and keeping them off the reef. They don’t want to lose their fishing gear and don’t want to destroy coral,” TNC Pelagic Conservation Strategy Lead Kydd Pollock said. “I feel comfortable saying that I really do believe it because of the communication that I’ve had with them. It’s in their interest to keep these FADs off the islands, but obviously, they have no control over the current.”

The Palmyra Atoll FAD Watch Program was founded in May 2021 with a signed MOU between TNC and the U.S. tuna purse seine fleet, which was quickly followed by a June 2021 MOU with Cape Fisheries to establish a 6-mile ring around Palmyra, in which dFADs entering the area can be swiftly recovered by the program.

My main focus from that point was to have very clear and transparent communication with our collaborators,” Pollock said. “For the first year, my focus was transparency, very open communication, and building trust.”

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission estimates that ...

Photo courtesy of JDL USCG/Shutterstock

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