Are There Environmental Drawbacks to FAD Fishing?

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Environmental Drawbacks of FAD Fishing

FAD fishing is a very popular way to improve the overall efficiency of harvesting schools of free-swimming fish such as tuna. FADs are fish aggregating devices which serve as shelter for different types of fish (Tuna Sustainability, 2010). Schools of tuna in particular can be hard to chase, but with FADs it is possible to harvest this species more efficiently (ISSF, 2014).
Purse seine fishing uses FADs to improve its effectiveness. Purse seine fishing involves the use of a net that is set vertically into the water. When a school of tuna is spotted under a FAD, the fishing vessel then moves the net to encircle the school of fish. This method of commercial fishing uses a targeted approach to efficiently harvest tuna in a shorter period of time (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014a).
The two main concerns about the negative environmental impacts of FAD fishing are:
  • fish harvested is more than the marine ecosystems can sustain causing overfishing of fish stocks, and
  • the use of nets in fishing causing high levels of bycatch (untargeted marine life which is caught incidentally). Scientific studies have concluded otherwise.

Minimizing the Environmental Drawbacks Associated with FAD Fishing

The responsible use of FADs for purse seine fishing can relieve many of the concerns associated with this fishing method. What is responsible use? Responsible use involves fishing from tuna stocks that are being managed by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and have been determined to have a healthy stock status. It also involves limiting the amount of fish that are harvested to the maximum sustainable yield or less, to eliminate overfishing.
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global organization composed of leading scientists, members of the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world’s leading conservation organization, who are all focused on promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term health of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch, and promoting ecosystem health. This includes analyzing catch data to determine the maximum sustainable yields for targeted stocks as well as identifying the best fishing practices for commercial fisheries in order to reduce the impact on marine ecosystems.
Purse seine nets are controlled by the vessel; experienced crews have increased expertise moving the net and are more skilled at harvesting the tuna. This can result in lower bycatch levels. However, bycatch levels are also affected by the region that is being fished, the time of year, and the fishing gear being used  (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014b). The levels of bycatch in some oceans are quite low for FAD fishing. For instance, the Western Central Pacific Ocean (the area where the largest percentage of canned tuna is caught) has an average bycatch of 1.7% with FAD fishing (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014b). The ISSF is working to further minimize these levels of bycatch when fishing on FADs.

Improving Sustainability

Clover Leaf sources fish that are caught responsibly on FADs. Clover Leaf is a founding member of the ISSF with an ongoing commitment to helping the organization reach its goals of sustainability. Sustainability practices for FAD fishing, such as the use of non-entangling nets, have been identified by the ISSF and implemented by fishermen to further reduce bycatch (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014b).
Clover Leaf understands the importance of sustainability in commercial fishing and is taking steps to ensure the long-term health of tuna stocks for future generations. 

Works Cited

ISSF. (2014). Purse Seine. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from International Seafood Sustainability Foundation:

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014a). Tuna School - How it's fished and processed. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from Clover Leaf Seafood School :

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014b). FAQ - How much bycatch is caugh using FADs. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Clover Leaf:

Tuna Sustainability. (2010, December 23). Glossary: FAD. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from YouTube:

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