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Project M.5.c - Definition of guidelines to reduce the impact of lost and abandoned FADs on marine turtles

01 Dec 2020 - 31 Dec 2022

Program(s) in charge: Ecosystem & Bycatch Program
Minimize the impacts caused by lost and abandoned FADs on sea turtles, while also defining future guidelines to reduce the impact of FAD structures on sea turtles´ habitats
  • It is estimated that around 20% of FADs are lost or abandoned every year in the Pacific Ocean
  • Recent scientific literature identified potential FAD accumulation areas in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Perú and Galapagos, among others
  • Most of these areas are essential habitats for many sea turtles, including nesting areas for leatherback turtle
  • Despite most of the FADs in the region are low entanglement risk FADs, the exact magnitude of turtles that become entangled, partially or permanently, is unknown, as well as their effects on their habitats
Relevance for management
Reduce interaction of FADs with non-target species as well as decreasing stranding events in habitats of interest for sea turtles, with special emphasis on foraging and nesting areas
20 months extended until the end of 2022 due to COVID-19 pandemic
Workplan and status
  • Evaluation of the starting point, through collecting information on current FAD loss and stranding events and FAD interactions with turtles
  • Modelling FAD trajectories arriving at essential habitats for turtles, with special focus on leatherback turtle and Hawaiian Islands
  • Evaluating options to reduce FAD impact and definition of guidelines for best practices, including outreach and conversations with stakeholders, fishing crew and managers
  • Several workshops will be organized during the project to promote discussion and acceptance of results
External collaborators
ISSF, Hawaii Pacific University, NOAA, SPC
  • Reports of the workshops organized during the workshop
  • A peer-reviewed publication on the results of the modelling of FAD drifts
  • A report with guidelines to reduce the impact of FAD structures on sea turtles and their habitat
  • Dissemination material for the Bycatch Working Group, likely in 2022 and 2023
Updated date: 01 May 2022
Progress summary for the reporting period
  • A series of passive-drift Lagrangian simulation experiments were undertaken based on possible FAD drifting behavior.
  • Guidelines to reduce the impact of lost and abandoned drifting FADs on sea turtles have started to be drafted. The guidelines will identify means to reduce the interactions and mortalities associated with (i) entanglement in FADs structure, and (ii) FAD stranding events in turtle´s essential habitats.
  • Several workshops will be held to discuss results with the fleet and define potential guidelines for FAD construction that may reduce impacts on sea turtles.
  • An in-person workshop is being organized to discuss projects results in late 2022.
Challenges and key lessons learnt
  • Corridors of connectivity between industrial FAD fishing grounds and zones of important habitats for sea turtles were identified.
  • For FADs deployed in the EPO, the main areas of concern appear to be the turtle habitats in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean, corresponding to oceanic leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) migration and feeding grounds. Moderate accumulation of FADs was also detected in the equator, coastal and oceanic habitats and nesting sites around Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama.
  • A large equatorial area, south of Hawaiʻi, important leatherback foraging habitat, exhibited large numbers of FADs transiting when deployed in the equatorial zones north of the equator, from both the EPO and WCPO.
  • The detected connectivity patterns appear to be somewhat mitigated against by the current deployment distribution of FADs in the EPO.
  • BYC-11-05 – Simulating FAD trajectories for key sea turtle habitats in the Pacific Ocean.
  • BYC-11-INF-A – Progress report on guidelines for to reduce the impact of lost FADs on sea turtles
  • Abstract submitted to the International Marine Debris Conference in Korea in 2022