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Fish aggregating devices

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Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), locally referred to as payaos, are common in the Philippines.

A press release by Joanna Benn in Manila (Dec. 1, 2012) quoting Amanda Nixon, director of tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group, brings attention to this “growing and unregulated fishing technique.”

According to Nixon, “The deployment of tens of thousands of drifting fish aggregation devices in the world’s oceans with little to no oversight is extremely worrisome.”

I quote from this press release published in the Internet: “FADs are used by fishermen to attract tuna and other species of fish. They often extend 50 meters below the surface and can be made from a variety of materials, including bamboo floats, plastic ribbons, and old nets. They can be adrift for years at a time and attract a wide variety of marine life, including skipjack tuna, sharks billfish, juvenile yellow fin and bigeye tuna.” Once aggregated around FADs, these fish species are caught with the use of purse seines.

According to Nixon, “The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear.”

The press release further says: “In addition, thousands of drifting FADs are lost or abandoned by fishing vessels every year, compounding an already serious marine debris problem.”

Alexia C. Morgan reviewed the effects of FADs and published her findings in the Pew Ocean Science Series, July 2011. Her negative findings are: 1) Recruitment overfishing of skipjack tuna in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, 2) Overfishing of big eye tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean from a combination of purse seine around FADs and longline fishing, 3) Decreased health of tuna caught near FADs compared with tuna caught in free schools, 4) Increased over time in biomass under FADs, reduced free school abundance, altered school movements resulting from change in behavior patterns of tuna under FADs, 5) increased difficulty of properly assessing the status of individual tuna populations, and 6) high rates of bycatch, including sharks, sea turtles, and juvenile tuna.

“… Pew Environment Group called on governments to take action to require information sharing and other aspects of management and regulation of FADs…To highlight this growing and harmful practice, award-winning film maker and marine biologist Rick Rosenthal together with production company Wild Logic… footage of FADs and their use… and what risks are posed by their use and proliferation….The film and an animation illustrating how FADs work is available at www.pewenvironment.org.”

Currently, it is safe to state that FADs are a highly controversial fishing gear. Governments should take heed of the warning of the Pew Environment Group.

__________________________________

Author’s email: [email protected]

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