ISSF extends testing of biodegradable FADs

ISSF extends testing of biodegradable FADs

Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, Ghana’s Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, has launched a pilot study on biodegradable Fish Aggregating Devices.

This study is part of a pilot project co-ordinated by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), with support provided by the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project and the European Union, to test the use of biodegradable and non-entangling FADs.

The initiative addresses some of the challenges facing the fishing sector by implementing best practice solutions to reduce both by-catch due to entanglement in FAD structure, and the amount of plastic and other non-natural materials used in FAD-related fishing, with the aim of contributing to achieving responsible, efficient and sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation.

FADs, either drifting or anchored, are used to aggregate fish species that tend to gather around floating objects. It is an effective fishing method used extensively in tuna fishing to catch large quantities of fish, although the devices can have a negative impact on the environment in the form of by-catch of non-target species and marine debris.

Studies show that FADs, made from plastic, PVC and nylon nets degrade slowly and can pollute oceans. They can cause damage to vulnerable ecosystems as reefs when sinking or beaching in coastal areas. In order to minimise the impacts of FADs – and as an evolution of non-entangling FADs that greatly reduce by-catch – scientists have been developing biodegradable structures using alternative materials of natural origin.

Recent experiments conducted by ISSF in collaboration with IPNLF resulted in a selection of appropriate biodegradable materials from natural origin to be tested in real fishing conditions. A first pilot was developed for the Indian Ocean, where 174 biodegradable devices were deployed. Building on this, and the knowledge acquired from the ongoing efforts in the Indian Ocean, a second pilot activity was developed to study FADs designed for the Atlantic Ocean.

The trial for the Atlantic Ocean was launched last month at the Ghanaian Ministry of Fisheries. This study will extend a similar large-scale implementation of non-entangling, biodegradable FADs to the tropical Atlantic Oceans, using Atlantic-specific structures, by involving Ghanaian flagged and European and associated flagged purse-seine fleets operating in the area.

The experimental FADs will be monitored with fishing crews reporting any activity with biodegradable FADs, and by scientists who will follow trajectories and biomass of biodegradable and non-biodegradable FADs. Concluding results will provide detailed recommendations regarding the replacement of conventional FADs by biodegradable materials and designs, based on the performance of the different types of structures, costs, fishermen’s opinions and strategy in the Atlantic.

The Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The Project harnesses the efforts of a large and diverse array of partners including the five tuna RFMOs, governments, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs and private sector with the aim to achieve responsible, efficient and sustainable tuna production and biodiversity conservation in the areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).

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