US environmental group releases estimate of FADs use

Bernadette Carreon – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Manila, Philippines (4E) – A major international environmental group , Pew released its first ever estimate of the use of Fish Aggregating Device (FADs) – the use worries the group and the Pacific island nation because it’s an unregulated fishing technique.

In a press statement, Pew stated that an estimated 47,000 to 105,000 FADs are currently in use worldwide to catch tuna and other species of fish.

“The deployment of tens of thousands of drifting fish aggregating devices in the world’s oceans with little to no oversight is extremely worrisome,” said Amanda Nickson, director of tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group.

PEW released this estimate during the opening of the annual meeting of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meet in Manila , Philippines.

FADs are used by fisherman to attract tuna and other species of fish. They often extend 50 meters below the surface and can be made from a variety of materials, including bamboo floats, plastic ribbons, and old nets. They can be adrift for years at a time and attract a wide variety of marine life, including skipjack tuna, sharks, billfish, juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna.

FAD fishing is widespread and growing because of its increased efficiency—the devices allow more fish to be caught with less effort.

This method is used to catch almost half of the world’s tuna and is contributing to the overfishing of bigeye tuna across the Pacific Ocean. In addition, sea turtles, sharks and juvenile fish are often caught and killed in the process of FAD fishing; hundreds of species are attracted by the floating device, the statement said.

The meeting brings together Asian nations, United States , European Union and other foreign fishers to meet and decide rules for fishing of tuna .

The Western and Central Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest tuna fishery , supplying 50 percent of global tuna supply.

“The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear,” said Nickson.

The Pew Environment Group estimate was obtained from data gathered from published scientific literature, industry expertise and documents from regional fisheries management organizations that oversee tuna fisheries.

Pew called on governments to take action to require information sharing and other aspects of management and regulation of FADs.

In the interim, Pew urges fishermen, fleet managers and satellite-buoy companies, all of whom know how many FADs are deployed, to cooperate with governments, fisheries management bodies like WCPFC, and scientists to share their data on numbers, locations and whether the devices have been retrieved.

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