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ISSF’s #BycatchProject Test Of FAD Escape Panels Unsuccessful Global, September 4, 13

As part of its mission to improve the sustainability of fisheries practices, the sixth leg of ISSF’s #BycatchProject had the main objective of testing its escape panels on FADs. These panels should let non-targetted species swim out of the net. Due to FAD bans in the Pacific, however, the trials were not materialized.

In a video broadcast by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) prior to the 42-day cruise, Jeff Muir, from the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology outlined the research team’s wish to include a second round of trials on the release panels they had developed. He explained: “These are basically holes in the fishing net that we can open in order to allow non-targeted species, like sharks, an opportunity to be released out of the net.”

However, the team did not have chance to test this mechanism ahead of the region’s FAD ban, gaining little more insight into their use than already discovered last year. Muir emphasized this as the “most important objective” of the trip.

Jeff Muir led a team of researchers on board the Cape Finisterre in the waters of the Western Pacific Ocean. He said: “During our time in the water, tagging and just making general observations, we were able to collect data on where sharks and other by-catch aggregate in the net.

“Sharks were observed in half of all FAD sets, and during this cruise we only spotted silky sharks in association with FADs.”

Muir added: “We did gain some insight into where the escape panels would be most strategically placed for future trials.” He explained in the video that the previous year had seen limited success in opening the panel 10 or 11 times.

The ISSF announced the launch of a five-year strategic plan earlier this year, where by 2017, they will strive to meet three main goals: achieve sustainability of tuna stocks and their ecosystems through continuous improvement; maintain and enhance credibility through improved transparency and compliance; and exercise marker and policy influence in regions and fisheries where participating companies operate.

The #BycatchProject’s first trip of 2013 concluding with only steadily developed findings from its previous leg of the journey is likely to be regarded as a disappointing start to efforts in advancing tuna sustainability as part of the plan.

The research team will now consider options they have in modifying the placement of the release panels, ready for the next cruise. Despite offering little insight to findings from the 2013 trip, Muir outlined the importance in sharing results with other researchers at the 9th Regular Session of the Scientific Committee of the WCPFC last month.