Responsible Drifting FAD Use

Blue Marine Foundation

An immediate and dramatic overhaul of drifting FAD operations is required. Regulations should be adopted globally to ensure that FADs are constructed in a fashion that minimises their impact on ocean health, and that FAD ownership, operations and tracking are completely transparent, with data made available to the public.

Read the full report

Drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs) deployed by tuna purse seine fisheries have been a driving force behind the doubling of global tuna catches since the 1990s. Universally, the management of drifting FADs is weak, characterised by an absence of responsibility on the part of owners and operators for the impacts of their FADs on ocean ecosystems. Lack of transparency around FAD operations means that no one is even sure how many drifting FADs are deployed around the world, though estimates indicate that the number is well above 100,000.

The lack of regulations governing drifting FAD use means that there is no penalty for failing to retrieve a FAD. Consequently, the loss rate in some fisheries is above 90 per cent10, leaving tens of thousands of FADs to sink and litter the seabed, or wash up on the coastlines of small island nations. The clean-up costs of this debris can be substantial, and there is currently no effective mechanism for obliging the vessel owners and their flag states to shoulder the financial burden of their polluting behaviour.

Clearly, an immediate and dramatic overhaul of drifting FAD operations is required. Regulations should be adopted globally to ensure that FADs are constructed in a fashion that minimises their impact on ocean health, and that FAD ownership, operations and tracking are completely transparent, with data made available to the public. Every effort must be made to recover all deployed FADs, and penalties should be paid by operators who fail to achieve this.

This document sets out the minimum requirements for the construction, use and management of drifting FADs. If fisheries and their management organisations are unable to agree to their implementation, then the only remaining course of action will be a complete moratorium on the use of drifting FADs.

SFACT is proud to have endorsed a report from Blue Marine Foundation outlining the global challenge of managing drifting fish aggregating devices. 

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