Understanding the Use of FADs in Tuna Fisheries Going Forward

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Fishing on FADs

The use of FADs (Tuna Sustainability, 2010b), or Fish Aggregating Devices, in tuna fisheries is a topic that inspires debate among conservationists, scientists and members of the tuna fishing industry.
The use of FADs significantly increases the efficiency of commercial fishing, especially when targeting free-swimming fish such as tuna, using purse seine fishing vessels. Some argue that this allows fishermen to catch too much fish.

Does Fishing on FADs Lead to Overfishing of Tuna?

Conservationists argue that the use of FADs contribute to overfishing due to the ability of the FAD to consistently attract large amounts of tuna, which can then be harvested. There is also criticism that purse seine fishing on FADs offers no way of mitigating the catch of juvenile fish. The catching of juvenile tuna is often attributed as one of the leading causes of overfishing. Overfishing occurs when fish are harvested from a stock faster than they can be replaced by reproduction  (Kennedy, 2014). Continued overfishing results in an overfished stock. If conservative measures are not taken to allow an overfished stock adequate time to recover, there can then be severe consequences to the ecosystem.
However, scientific studies have concluded that catching juvenile tuna around FADs does not directly result in overfishing. Catching either juvenile or adult tunas reduces the overall population of tuna. But overfishing can occur when too many tunas are caught, regardless of whether they are juvenile or adult. The study also found no obvious pattern between the relative magnitude of the catch by sets on FADs and whether a particular stock is either overfished or being subjected to overfishing  (Laurent Dagorn, 2012).
The tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) rely extensively on data sets on FAD usage, which are being made possible with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation’s (ISSF) support by encouraging vessels to supply their data directly to the appropriate RFMO body. Research studies on how many FADs are deployed, their locations, usage patterns, recoveries and losses, are necessary to ensure they are always used, monitored and managed in a manner that reduces fuel costs and carbon footprints, without harming the ecosystem or causing overfishing.
The eradication of overfishing falls to individual fishing vessels and fisheries adopting responsible fishing practices. Understanding the status of fishing stocks and limiting catch sizes are essential to the sustainable use of tuna stocks.

Reducing Bycatch for Tuna Fishing with FADs

The use of FADs often receives criticism for the levels of bycatch (Tuna Sustainability, 2010a) that are associated with this fishing method.
Studies have shown that levels of non-tuna bycatch (non-targeted marine life that is caught incidentally) from FAD fishing are comparable or lower than other industrial fisheries  (Laurent Dagorn, 2012). As a founding member, Clover Leaf is working extensively with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to assess fishing practices in order to lower bycatch levels even further. The ISSF is a global organization composed of leading scientists, members of the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, all of who are focused on promoting science-based initiatives for the long term health of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health.
Since 2011, ISSF’s Bycatch Project has conducted globally coordinated cruises with fishers and scientists to gain input to identify improvements within the tuna purse seine fishery focused on reducing environmental impact of fishing for tuna with FADs. The researchers’ findings are used in skipper workshops, globally, resulting in identifying best practices, new techniques and enhanced technologies to minimize bycatch on FADs and improving tuna fisheries (Patterson, 2014).
Clover Leaf sources fish caught on FADs and is working through its commitment to the ISSF to improve the sustainable use of FADs in tuna fishing moving forward. 

Works Cited

Kennedy, J. (2014). Overfishing. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from About.com: http://marinelife.about.com/od/glossary/g/overfishingdef.htm

Laurent Dagorn, K. H. (2012, October 3). Fishing with FADs – Good or Bad? Retrieved October 10, 2014, from ISSF: http://iss-foundation.org/2012/10/04/is-it-good-or-bad-to-fish-with-fads/

Patterson, E. G. (2014, May 1). RESEARCHERS WORK TOWARD BYCATCH MITIGATION AMONGST AN ACTIVE CREW OF FISHERMEN… AND AMONGST THE SHARKS. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://iss-foundation.org/2014/05/02/researchers-work-toward-bycatch-mitigation-amongst-an-active-crew-of-fishermen-and-amongst-the-sharks/

Tuna Sustainability. (2010a, December 23). Glossary: Bycatch. Retrieved October 10, 2014, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz9X_23LSWc

Tuna Sustainability. (2010b, December 23). Glossary: FAD. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWAKevZK26o&feature=youtu.be

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