An important sector of the tuna industry in the Eastern Pacific Ocean organized in Manta on October 2 and 3 at the Hotel Oro Verde, the First working meeting on experiences in the development of Non-Entangling and Biodegradable FADs prepared by the Tuna Conservation Group (TUNACONS), formed by 5 tuna companies (NIRSA, EUROFISH, JADRAN, SERVIGRUP and TRI MARINE) in coordination with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF ECUADOR) to strengthen the sustainability of the purse seine tuna fishery in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

A “FAD” is an artificial attraction mechanism for schools of tunas; planted ones arise from observing that schools of tunas congregated around sticks, fallen trees, and dead animals in the sea or any floating object. Each boat places in the sea or “plant” between 50 to 400 FADs on each trip, depending on the size of the boat.

Important specialists from organizations as the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), International Seafood Sustainable Foundation (ISSF), Organization of Frozen Tuna Producers (OPAGAP FIP), the Marine and Food Technology Center (AZTI) and TUNACONS as well, participate during the meeting. So far, they have worked separately; but now they joined efforts to define actions and provide more efficient results on the development of non-entangling and biodegradable FADs in this part of the Pacific Ocean.

The Sub-Secretary for Fishery Resources of the Ministry of Aquaculture and Fisheries endorsed this international technical working meeting, which provided the impetus for all activities that promote a sustainable fishery to guarantee conservation throughout tuna species as well as the country’s tuna industry.

This meeting was also used to communicate the “Code of Good Practices On Board for the management and release of the sensitive companion fauna according to the mitigation measures adopted by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) which was approved by the 5 companies that conform the TUNACONS FIP in cooperation with WWF Ecuador;  “which will be mandatory in all its vessels, so that captains and crew members may frequently adopt all necessary measures to protect marine species from possible negative impacts”.

The purse-seine tuna fishery in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) is a very intense activity that has developed rapidly over the last 30 years. The generalized use of fish aggregation devices (FADs s[1]) in tuna fisheries is a topic of common concern to all Regional Tuna Fishery Management Organizations and has become a problem of increasingly relevant management. Planted are floating objects used by fishermen to attract tunas and facilitate their capture.

The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), through Resolution C-16-01, encourages countries members to develop non-entangling and biodegradable FADs testing processes for reducing some impacts on the marine ecosystem. Recently, the IATTC Resolution C-17-02 has already determined the mandatory use of non-entangling FADs throughout the EPO fleet as of January 2019.

For this reason, all the aspects involved in the purse-seine fishery of the EPO were involved in this meeting and the new IATTC provisions influence or motivate scientific research on materials that are resistant to the salinity of the sea, but which in turn reduce the possible negative effect on the aquatic environment. All the progress that have been developed in the various initiatives carried out in the Eastern Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans by the IATTC scientific teams, as well as the ISSF[2],, Azti Tecnalia and TUNACONS, are discussed in order to obtain the Ideal “EcoFAD”.

Combining the efforts that had been made separately contributes to the common good, as a result of the working days, it was possible to culminate with an Executive Plan on works in non-entangling and biodegradable FADs that can be tested for 2 consecutive years. The agreement was reached to promote the use of two prototypes of Standard FADs with which they will begin to carry out the tests of materials of vegetal origin for their elaboration and “seeding” in high seas. The device is expected to last between 6 months and 1 year in an effort to prevent the unintended arrival of one of them to an island or protected area causes negative impacts on marine ecosystems. In this way, if that happens, FADs will not delay in degrading and disappearing, contributing to a healthy ecosystem and free of toxic waste.

The companies NIRSA and SERVIGRUP, which are part of the TUNACONS FIP, are going to develop in the next days new experiments with non-entangling and biodegradable FADs, using new vegetal material of such as the ABACA produced in Ecuador, this experiments will be monitored by the technical team of the project, to analyze if it meets the objectives that were raised in this work meeting.

Objectives of the First working meeting on experiences in the development of non-entangling and biodegradable FADs.

  • Organize a regional space for analysis so that scientists working in the field, exchange views with fishery technicians on designs of FADs that at the same time be efficient to catch tunas, generate a less impact to the marine ecosystem in case of loss.
  • Generate an executive plan to coordinate future actions between institutions and organizations that are developing research activities on non-entangling and biodegradable FADs.
  • Broadcast to potential users the results achieved so far on the experiments in this topic.

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