The Spanish tuna fleet is spearheading research and development work in biodegradable FADs on a worldwide scale. A pilot project was started this year in the Atlantic makes his fleet the only one with projects of this kind in all three of the oceans in which it operates.
Mirroring research being done in the Indian Ocean since 2017 and in the Pacific since 2019, through 2022 the project now in progress in the Atlantic will evaluate the feasibility of biodegradable FADs under real operating conditions and their contribution to reducing marine pollution. The results of these experiments will provide the fleet with the practical evidence it needs for a widespread rollout of biodegradable FADs in all three ocean areas.
The Spanish tuna fleet is looking for biodegradable alternatives to synthetic materials, so as to minimise the impact of FADs on the ecosystem, especially when they sink or become beached. To do this, the OPAGAC fleet and a number of organisations (such as AZTI and the ISSF) are testing the durability and biodegradability of organic materials including wood, fabric, bamboo, and plant-based ropes. It is also analysing biodegradable FADs’ ability to aggregate tuna and FAD drift patterns, which are fundamental for maintaining fishing while at the same time minimising interaction with vulnerable marine ecosystems.
‘Using FADs to help concentrate tropical tunas in one place is an ancient fishing technique that we want to help evolve to suit the new environment, where sustainability is a fundamental variable,’ said OPAGAC managing director Julio Morón.
‘That’s why we are developing this new generation of FADs. Also, they must also be durable enough, according to the variable needs of each fleet and fishing area, they must be made with materials that are easy to obtain and they must come at a reasonable cost.’
The end goal is to design a type of FAD that contains the greatest possible quantity of biodegradable material, in a proportion that eliminates the risk of entanglement for associated animal species and does not hamper the device’s performance.
OPAGAC has also pointed out that the deadline some NGOs have set for adopting 100% biodegradable FADs (the end of this year) is not feasible, given the limitations still to be dealt with from several points of view, such as material biodegradability, design effectiveness and economic feasibility. For now, the regional fisheries organisations in charge of regulating tuna fishing have issued recommendations and resolutions to promote research and the use of biodegradable materials to build FADs.