Through our skippers workshops and at-sea research, we have deepened our understanding of the best designs and materials for fish aggregating devices (FADs) that are biodegradable as well as non-entangling. As part of this focus, we updated our longstanding non-entangling FAD guide for tuna fishers, vessel owners, and policymakers to feature — for the first time — instructions and illustrations for making FAD rafts and tails with natural materials. ISSF’s Non-entangling & Biodegradable FADs Guide, available in several languages, helps fishers to follow sustainable-fishing best practices — and comply with RFMO FAD requirements. We also published a report summarizing what we learned from testing different biodegradable rope materials for FADs under real fishing conditions. By making the transition to non-entangling, biodegradable FADs (bio-FADs), tuna fishers can prevent sharks, sea turtles, and other marine animals from getting caught unintentionally in nets — and becoming bycatch.

A More Sustainable Option

Biodegradable FAD designs can reduce:

  • Ghost fishing by drifting FADs that are lost at sea, or end up sinking or stranding

  • Impacts on the habitat (bio-FADs degrade at a relatively faster rate)

  • Marine pollution, by decreasing the amount of plastic used to build bio-FADs

In 2019, ISSF’s Dr. Gala Moreno and Dr. Jefferson Murua of AZTI Tecnalia facilitated a bio-FAD workshop in the Philippines for fishing masters, shipowners, and fishing associations and World Tuna Purse Seiner Organization (WTPO) representatives from several countries. ISSF also hosted bio-FAD workshops in Croatia with a fleet from Pohnpei in the Western Pacific, in Papua New Guinea; in the Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall islands; in Ghana with purse-seine and pole-and-line fleets; and in Spain with purse-seine fishers.

Scientific and Industry Collaborations

Dr. Moreno’s bio-FAD work also included extensive outreach to sustainable-fishing stakeholders:

  • Discussing bio-FAD pilots and research opportunities with tuna companies — including ISSF participating companies — and ocean organizations

  • Collaborating with physical oceanographers from the Institut de Ciències del mar (CSIC) in Barcelona — experts on drift behavior and currents — about testing bio-FAD structures in controlled conditions in their facilities

  • Collaborating with AZTI (Spain), Instituto Español de Oceanografia (IEO - Spain), and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD - France) on the large-scale test of bio-FADs in the Western Indian Ocean, together with EU and Korean fleets

  • Collaborating with International Pole and Line Foundation and Maldivian Research Institute to publish a technical report on tests of biodegradable ropes in controlled conditions

  • Coordinating a test of 100 bio-FADs in the Western Pacific Ocean with six purse-seine vessels from Caroline Fisheries Corporation and support from the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority in Pohnpei

  • Coordinating a project to test 600 bio-FADs with Ghanaian pole-and-line and purse-seine fleets in the Atlantic Ocean

Experimental bio-FADs deployed by ISSF with the collaboration of the fishing industry are currently at sea in the Atlantic and the Western Pacific Oceans, and results will be available in late 2020. We are working with other fleets to raise awareness of bio-FADs’ impacts and to share bio-FAD designs with fishers.

The active engagement by fishers and industry in these projects builds relationships that yield long-term benefits to reduce FADs’ impacts on the ecosystem. If fishers are convinced that bio-FADs are a viable alternative to conventional ones, it will greatly help the adoption of conservation measures at RFMOs.

-Dr. Gala Moreno, Scientist Consultant, ISSF