Management best practice for fish-aggregating devices

The FFA helps the small island developing states (SIDS) to develop plans for managing fish-aggregating devices (FADs). The devices affect how fish behave and how many fish are caught. FADs take advantage of the natural habit of some fish, including tuna, to group around objects floating in the water.

FADs are used to attract fish that naturally gather in dense schools. This means that less time is spent searching for them. The practice is particularly useful when fishing for highly migratory fish such as tuna. But FADs can:

  • reduce populations of bigeye and yellowfin tuna when purse-seine fishers catch juvenile fish that group around FADs
  • interfere with longline fishing, because they increase the risk fishing gear becoming entangled in the mooring ropes of FADs.

What are FADs?

Fish-aggregating devices are structures that float on or near the surface of the water where fish may congregate.

Most are made by humans. They may be free-floating or anchored to the seabed. Examples are buoys, floats, netting, webbing, plastics, bamboo and log. Fish sometimes also gather around whale sharks.

In 2012, the Pew Environment Group estimated that the number of drifting FADs put into the oceans each year ranges from 47,000 to 105,000.

FAD management plans:

  • limit the number of FADs used by purse-seining fishing vessels
  • modifying the design, operation, location and maintenance of FADs to minimise disruption to other fisheries.

Since 1 January 2020, it has been compulsory for all FADs (existing and new) to be designed and constructed so that they cannot entangle sharks, turtles, and other animals that are not the target of fishing operations. The WCPFC also recommends that they be made of biodegradable materials.

Marine Stewardship Council certification

An evaluation of the sustainability of global tuna stocks relative to the Marine Stewardship Council criteria (March 2020) provides a basis for comparing stock scores. It is a useful source document for future tuna certifications or when establishing tuna fishery improvement projects (FIPs) and offers a “snapshot” of the current status of the stocks.

PNA best practices

The PNA has two main practices for conserving its fish stocks:

  • limiting the catch of all fishing vessels through the Vessel Day Scheme, which is explained in more detail under Catch & harvest
  • banning the use of fish-aggregating devices by purse-seine fishers for three months a year.
Subsistence fisher Solomon Islands coastal waters. Photo credit Francisco Blaha
A Solomon Islands subsistence fisher at work. Photo credit: Francisco Blaha.