Global condemnation is growing for the increasingly widespread use of harmful “fish aggregation devices” (FADs) in the fishing industry, as retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and the German chain Edeka joined calls for restrictions. .
TO letter signed by more than 100 NGOs, retailers and artisanal fisheries urges this week’s meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) to consider proposals from Kenya and Sri Lanka to monitor, manage and restrict FADs. Signatories warn of an “urgent need” to improve FAD management to reduce overfishing and rebuild yellowfin populations.
FADs are floating buoys or other objects that cast a shadow that attracts schools of fish. Artisanal fishers, who have long recognized that fish accumulate under logs, have used similar aids for centuries, but the increasing use of “adrift” FADs by industrial fishing fleets is causing concern among fisheries managers and conservationists.
By casting nets near FADs, boats can increase their catch, but use of the devices leads to more bycatch, including juvenile tunas that have not had a chance to reproduce.
Marks & Spencer warned that FADs pose a “serious threat” to the recovery of overfished yellowfin in the Indian Ocean. He urged regulators and fishing nations to adopt measures to restrict and manage the devices, in order to address overfishing, as well as marine plastic pollution and the accidental capture of turtles, sharks and marine mammals.
Adding their voices to the debate over overfishing, particularly in the Indian Ocean, the companies join Tesco, Co-op and Princes, who recently called for tough action to rebuild stocks of yellowfin tuna in the ocean.
Although the EU and Maldives have made proposals to the IOTC, which regulates tuna stocks and will meet this week to decide how to reduce overfishing and rebuild stocks, neither proposal included control of FADs. Marks & Spencer did not sign the letter, but wrote to IOTC delegates on Monday in support of the proposals from Kenya, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
A spokesperson for J Sainsbury plc said none of its tunas are caught with FADs. The retailer began offering FAD-free tuna to consumers in 2018, in addition to pole and line caught tuna, in order to expand customer options. Edeka too uses pole and line caught tuna.
The EU’s distant water fleet, which was accused last week by developing coastal states of “neocolonial” looting of tuna in the Indian Ocean, is made up of industrial purse-seine vessels and is a major user of “FADs adrift. “, they are not tied and have a net underneath. Drifting FADs are the main target of the Kenya-Sri Lanka proposal.
Research has linked the use of planted adrift to increase the catch of and younger yellowfin and bigeye tuna. The IOTC working group itself raised this concern about the devices three years ago. “[The use of FADs] the amount of bycatch has increased (including some species classified as vulnerable or endangered) and has likely had adverse effects on fish ecology and vulnerable areas (for example, stranding events in coral reef areas) ”.
Signatories to the letter to the IOTC include WWF and the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF). Marcel Kroese of WWF said: “Considering that the majority of catch from industrial fisheries ends up as canned tuna in the EU and the UK, or sashimi in Japan and the US, WWF and our partners call for a rigorous management approach that recognizes the critical role in food security, income generation and economic development of marginalized communities in coastal states of the Indian Ocean. “
“The ecological damage caused by FADs adrift through ghost fishing, plastic pollution and damage to sensitive coastal habitats like corals is felt long after they have been lost, abandoned or discarded,” said Martin Purves. , Managing Director of IPNLF, a UK-based charity that works with tuna fisheries using low-impact fishing gear.
“These devices are not only devastating the yellowfin population, they are leaving coastal communities to deal with the disaster they leave behind.”
the proposal from Kenya and Sri Lanka recommends banning the use of drifting FADs for three months from July 1 to September 31, and reducing the number of FADs for each vessel from 300 to 150.
While the total catch of yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean is split almost equally between industrial and artisanal vessels, conservationists say it is the industrial catch around FADs that is driving overfishing. Approximately 97% of the catches are made adrift. The FADs were yellowfin juveniles, according to the Blue Marine Foundation. In contrast, 36% of the Maldives hand line and pole and line catch were yellowfin juveniles, according to the INPLF.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism