Estimating the Use of Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the Global Tuna Fishery

Navigate to:

Estimating the Use of Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the Global Tuna Fishery

An estimated 47,000 to 105,000 fish aggregating devices (FADs) are currently in use worldwide to catch tuna according to the Pew Environment Group. Pew released this first-ever estimate of the use of FADs at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting today to bring attention to this growing and unregulated fishing technique.

“The deployment of tens of thousands of drifting fish aggregating devices in the world's oceans with little to no oversight is extremely worrisome,” said Amanda Nickson, director of tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group.

FADs are used by fisherman to attract tuna and other species of fish. They often extend 50 meters below the surface and can be made from a variety of materials, including bamboo floats, plastic ribbons, and old nets. They can be adrift for years at a time and attract a wide variety of marine life, including skipjack tuna, sharks, billfish, juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna.

FAD fishing is widespread and growing because of its increased efficiency—the devices allow more fish to be caught with less effort. This method is used to catch almost half of the world's tuna and is contributing to the overfishing of bigeye tuna across the Pacific Ocean. In addition, sea turtles, sharks and juvenile fish are often caught and killed in the process of FAD fishing; hundreds of species are attracted by the floating devices.

"The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear."
-Amanda Nickson, director, global tuna conservationScientists are unclear about the overall impact of wide-scale FAD use on the marine ecosystem, yet the devices are being deployed in record numbers. Additionally, thousands of drifting FADs are lost or abandoned by fishing vessels every year, compounding an already serious marine debris problem.

“The fishing industry is not currently required to account for its use of FADs. It is being allowed to gamble with the health of the ocean, and it is time for governments to require full accountability and management of this proliferating and risky fishing gear,” said Nickson.

The Pew Environment Group estimate was obtained from data gathered from published scientific literature, industry expertise and documents from regional fisheries management organizations that oversee tuna fisheries.

At the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting today, Pew called on governments to take action to require information sharing and other aspects of management and regulation of FADs. In the interim, Pew urges fishermen, fleet managers and satellite-buoy companies, all of whom know how many FADs are deployed, to cooperate with governments, fisheries management bodies like WCPFC, and scientists to share their data on numbers, locations and whether the devices have been retrieved.

To highlight this growing and harmful practice, award-winning filmmaker and marine biologist Rick Rosenthal, together with production company Wild Logic, is releasing never-before-seen footage of FADs and their use. This three-minute film illustrates why marine life is attracted to floating objects at sea, how vessels deploy FADs and what risks are posed by their use and proliferation. The film and an animation illustrating how FADs work is available at www.pewenvironment.org.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Composite image of modern city network communication concept

Learn the Basics of Broadband from Our Limited Series

Sign up for our four-week email course on Broadband Basics

Quick View

How does broadband internet reach our homes, phones, and tablets? What kind of infrastructure connects us all together? What are the major barriers to broadband access for American communities?

Pills illustration
Pills illustration

What Is Antibiotic Resistance—and How Can We Fight It?

Sign up for our four-week email series The Race Against Resistance.

Quick View

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as “superbugs,” are a major threat to modern medicine. But how does resistance work, and what can we do to slow the spread? Read personal stories, expert accounts, and more for the answers to those questions in our four-week email series: Slowing Superbugs.

Explore Pew’s new and improved
Fiscal 50 interactive

Your state's stats are more accessible than ever with our new and improved Fiscal 50 interactive:

  • Maps, trends, and customizable charts
  • 50-state rankings
  • Analysis of what it all means
  • Shareable graphics and downloadable data
  • Proven fiscal policy strategies

Explore

Welcome to the new Fiscal 50

Key changes include:

  • State pages that help you keep track of trends in your home state and provide national and regional context.
  • Interactive indicator pages with highly customizable and shareable data visualizations.
  • A Budget Threads feature that offers Pew’s read on the latest state fiscal news.

Learn more about the new and improved Fiscal 50.