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Project M.5.a - Develop and test non-entangling and biodegradable FADs

01 Aug 2015 - 01 Feb 2022

Program(s) in charge: Ecosystem & Bycatch Program
Construction of non-entangling FADs from biodegradable materials, not only to decrease mortality of non-target species by net-webbing entanglement, but also minimize contributions to ocean debris and pollution by commercial tuna fishing.
  • Non-target species are also found in association with FADs, and in some instances, may become entangled in the FADs and perish.
  • Some FAD components that are lost at sea or not retrieved, particularly those including plastics or other materials that are not readily degradable may last many years in the environment as pollutants, and threatening vulnerable ecosystems.
  • There is an increasing interest in identifying non-entangling and biodegradable components that could be used in FAD construction, while still providing similar function in terms of tuna aggregation.
Relevance for management
  • Ecological impacts on vulnerable ecosystems may be considered an important factor for FAD fishery management purposes.
  • Results may be used by the Commission members in the development of best fishing practices and management measures
29 months
Workplan and status
  • August 2015 – April 2017: Purchase of FAD and mooring materials. FAD deployment at test site. FAD monitoring.
  • April – December 2017: Ongoing research on alternative non-entangling and biodegradable materials to extend the durability of the FADs.
  • January 2018: Project report
  • May 2016. Ad hoc working group on FADs. La Jolla, USA.
  • May 2017. 68th Tuna Conference. Lake Arrowhead, USA.
  • October 2017. ECOFAD meeting. Manta, Ecuador.
  • March 2018. Project final report (Phase 1)
Updated date: 01 May 2023
Progress summary for the reporting period
  • February–December 2018: Research on alternative non-entangling and biodegradable materials to extend the durability of the FADs.
  • December 2018: Agreement with vessel companies concerning methodology and allocation of FAD prototypes to vessels through Memorandums of Understanding.
  • April 2019: Agreement with companies regarding purchase and allocation of materials.
  • August 2019: Deployment and data collection of non-entangling devices (NEDs) and control pairs (traditional FADs). Observers record condition of NEDs and catches. Database on interactions with NEDs created.
  • June 2020: reporting of satellite buoy data attached to experimental objects starts.
  • January 2022: 718 NEDs have been embarked on board the participant vessels. 713 NEDs have been deployed, with 56 sets made.
  • January-June 2022: resume NED deployment for the last batch of experimental objects.
  • January 2023: 744 NEDs have been deployed by the participant vessels, with 143 sets made and with 33.6 mt of tuna caught per set, as average.
  • December 2022-April 2023: Collect and analyze the satellite buoy data used in the project for the experimental objects. Write a document with updated results for the FAD WG, including trajectory and biomass data from satellite buoys.
Challenges and key lessons learnt
  • Reaching agreement with vessel captains on using a limited number of standard FAD prototypes.
  • Simplifying the materials to purchase.
  • The flotation of NEDs made of natural materials was satisfactory during the period observed.
  • NED design using canvas and ropes made with abaca fiber showed ‘very good’ to ‘good’ condition after, at least, 2-3 months at sea. Improvements on condition were achieved by smearing this fiber with natural rubber or animal lard. 20% of FADs on board TUNACONS’s vessel fleets are now using this design in a voluntary basis.
  • The use of the first selected cotton seems to be inappropriate. Modifications have been made to accommodate fleet’s concerns. Modified prototypes are being currently tested. On-land trials to improve cotton condition are currently in development.
  • Preliminary analyses of tuna catches between close NEDs and FADs showed similar values. NED had an average catch per set of 34 mt and were, in 55% of the cases, greater or equal than nearby traditional FADs’ catch per set.
  • COVID-19 pandemic caused delays on NED construction. Meetings with fleet managers and stakeholders have been held to adapt to this situation. Works have been already resumed.
  • Several presentations made at skippers’ workshops in the region.
  • Online technical meetings with researchers involved in similar projects in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and ISSF staff.
  • SAC-09; SAC-11; SAC-12; SAC-13 and SAC-14: progress reports and presentations.
  • A project overview and preliminary results presented during 2020-2021; 2021-2022, and
  • 2022-2023 skippers’ workshops (Manta-Ecuador).
  • FAD-06: progress report and staff’s recommendations (FAD-06-02).
  • FAD-07: progress report and staff’s recommendations (FAD-07-02).
Project was suspended during March-July 2018, thus missing the fishing season off Peru. In 2020-2021, 81 NEDs were deployed off Peru and in 2019-2021, 457 NEDs were deployed west of Galapagos. A project extension proposal was approved in October 2019 for a total of 38 months. Matters related to COVID-19 pandemic and the need for new suppliers and materials led to an additional project extension proposal, approved in March 2021, for a total of 52 months.