The Effectiveness and Sustainability of FAD Fishing

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What Is FAD Fishing?

FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) is a floating object in the water – either natural or man-made - that attracts certain species of aquatic life (Tuna Sustainability, 2010). Using FADs to find schools of fish is a technique that has been used by fishing vessels for decades.  In case of a purse seine fishing vessel, for example, when a school of fish is spotted under the FAD, the vessel uses a vertically set net to encircle the school (ISSF, 2014).
Purse seine fishing is extremely consistent and effective for different species of tuna as it allows fishing vessels to use a more targeted approach, thereby reducing their carbon footprint by reducing fuel consumption. Tuna is known to be free-swimming; many other fishing methods such as long line or pole and line involve chasing after schools of tuna, which wastes large amounts of time, manpower, fuel and often large amounts of bait fish (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014).

FAD Fishing and Bycatch

The use of a net for fishing can result in the catch of both targeted and non-targeted marine life. The incidental catching of non-targeted marine life using any fishing method is known as bycatch. It is important to understand that all fishing methods result in some level of bycatch.
The use of FADs can contribute to slightly higher bycatch levels than FAD-free fishing methods, but it is important to note that bycatch levels are still quite low for FAD fishing (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014). There are many different factors that contribute to the levels of bycatch including:
  • The region that is being fished – three out of four major oceans (Western Pacific, Eastern Pacific and Indian) produce typical bycatch levels lower than 4%. The lowest bycatch rates are in the Western Pacific, where the largest majority of canned tuna is caught.
  • The time of year that fishing takes place
  • The experience of the crew including expertise with the net and what types of FADs are used.
It is also important to understand that up to 95% of the bycatch resulting from FAD fishing are not species that are at risk. The UN has stated that this fishing method does not pose a threat to any endangered species. Furthermore, it is often possible for much of the marine life captured as bycatch to be released back into the ocean alive.

Improving FAD Fishing Practices

Clover Leaf has been working through the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to improve the overall sustainability of FAD fishing. The ISSF is an organization made up of acclaimed scientists, environmental groups and industry experts with shared concerns about the future of tuna stocks.  The mission of the ISSF is to promote the sustainable use of tuna stocks by monitoring, assessing and improving fishing practices to further reduce bycatch and improve overall ecosystem health.
The ISSF is focused on undertaking initiatives that are rooted in science. One of the ISSF’s most important projects is the Bycatch Project (The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family, 2014); a globally-coordinated, multi-year, at-sea research project devoted to identifying the best fishing practices and developing new technologies to further minimize bycatch on FADs. This project has already led to significant findings including the use of non-entangling nets on FADs (so that sharks and turtles do not get stuck), which have already been put into use by fishermen.
There is no doubt that FAD fishing provides an extremely effective method for fishing tuna. The ISSF and Clover Leaf continue to work together to further improve this method of fishing to make it even more sustainable.

Works Cited

ISSF. (2014). Purse Seine. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from International Seafood Sustainability Foundation:

ISSF. (n.d.). Our Story. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from International Seafood Sustainability Foundation:

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014). FAQ - Greenpeace says fishing on FADs is destructive. Why does Clover Leaf fish on FADs? Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Clover Leaf:

The Clover Leaf Seafoods Family. (2014). FAQ - How much bycatch is caught using FADs? Retrieved October 1, 2014, from Clover Leaf:

Tuna Sustainability. (2010, December 23). Glossary: FAD. Retrieved October 1, 2014, from YouTube:

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