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FAD’s Help Double EPO Catching Efficiency

Fishing Aggregating Devices (FADs) increased catch efficiency in 50% in the Easter Pacific Ocean (EPO) and are also responsible for 77% of total discards in 2008.

Yesterday, the RFMO responsible for managing the area, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), has released last year’s data on catches, gears and discards.

The total catches of the three major species – Yellowfin, Skipjack and Bigeye – reached 557.029 M/T in 2008, of which 48% (267.385 M/T) were caught in association with floating objects.

FADs catch efficiency is double when compared to other methods. IATTC data shows that for every set the average retained tuna was 31 M/T, while fishing for free schools resulted in 14-15M/T per set. (See table)

There are two types of floating objects, flotsam and FADs. The occurrence of the former is unplanned, from the point of view of the fishermen, and are naturally occurring; whereas the latter are constructed and deployed by fishermen specifically for the purpose of attracting tuna.

FADs have been widely used for about 14 years, and their relative importance has increased during this period, while that of flotsam has decreased, reported the Commission. (See Table)

According to the IATTC, with the development of the fishery for tuna associated with FADs, the relative importance of the inshore areas has decreased, while that of the offshore areas has increased.

Floating objects are also responsible for the highest discards rates in the EPO. From total discards reported by IATTC observers, 77% happened using the method – 13.209 M/T of various species caught and discarded.

For some species, such as Dorado and Black Skipjack the percentage of discards in association with FADs reached 98% and 89% respectively. (See table).
The report also demonstrates how FAD fishing has negatively affected the bigeye population in the EPO: “The FAD fishery captures smaller bigeye, and has therefore resulted in important changes in the amount of fishing mortality for bigeye in the EPO. On average, since 1993 the fishing mortality of bigeye less than about 15 quarters old has increased substantially, and that of fish more than about 15 quarters old has increased slightly”, stated the report.

Most of the bigeye catches are taken in sets on FADs between 5°N and 5°S. The annual figures have increased 54% from the period prior FADs – 1994 with 35.000 M/T – to 2008 estimated amount 75.653 M/T.