FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices- see definition here) are primarily used in purse seine fishing - the way we fish our Skipjack and Yellowfin tuna. Bycatch in purse seine FAD fisheries - the catch of marine life that fishers did not set out to target - is mainly other small non-targeted tuna. Other species of fish, sharks, and other marine life can also be captured incidentally.
The amount of bycatch in purse seine FAD fisheries can vary widely depending on the region, time of the year, vessel, crew experience, and more. It is true that bycatch levels are higher when fishing on FADs than when fishing FAD-free. However, bycatch levels are still quite low for FAD fishing - less than 4% in three out of four of the world's major oceans. Further, the lowest bycatch rates are in the Western Pacific, where the largest majority of canned tuna is caught.
Purse Seine Bycatch Rates - Non-target species (ISSF, 2011)
School Fishing (FAD-free): Western Pacific 0.3% - Eastern Pacific 0.8% - Indian 0.8% - Atlantic 2.8%FAD Fishing: Western Pacific 1.7% - Eastern Pacific 2.4% - Indian 3.6% - Atlantic 8.9%
To put FAD fishing into perspective, here are some facts:
- 80-95% of bycatch are species NOT at risk.
- The UN has stated that fishing on FADs does NOT threaten the existence of endangered species.
- All methods of fishing have bycatch.
- In three of the world's four tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), there are mandatory tuna retention policies for purse seiners. This means that when juvenile tuna are captured, they are generally kept and used in tuna processing, so there is no waste.
- Sharks and turtles that are captured as bycatch can often be released alive.
To drive home our commitment to reduce our impact on the world's oceans, check out what the ISSF is doing to protect sharks and turtles.
One of the ISSF's largest projects is the Bycatch Project, with a $15 million commitment from members and growing. This project is a globally-coordinated, 3-year, at-sea research project to identify best practices, new techniques and enhanced technologies that will allow fishers to minimize bycatch on FADs. This research is being shared with vessel crewmembers through workshops hosted in communities around the world, fostering a direct dialogue that can have an immediate impact on the practices of fishers who supply the world's processors with tuna. Findings such as non-entangling FADs (reducing the use of netting so that sharks and turtles do not get stuck) are already being implemented by fishermen.
Through the best practices and commitments in the ISSF Make the Commitment plan, the ISSF plans to eliminate half the discarded bycatch in purse seine fisheries by 2014.