SPAIN : The Spanish tuna fleet and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) have signed an agreement to test, for a period of between 12 and 14 months, biodegradable fish aggregating devices (FADs) in waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The agreement includes the deployment of new non-entangling and degradable devices developed by the Spanish fleet, in collaboration with the technological institute AZTI and the International Seafood Sustainabilty Foundation (ISSF).
The agreement signed between IATTC and the Organization of Associated Producers of Large Freezer Tuna Vessels (OPAGAC) involves the testing, throughout 2019, of the new devices to assess their viability.
The 14 OPAGAC ships that operate in the waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean are committed to deploying the new BIOFAD prototypes along with the non-entangled (NEFADs) that are now used, to assess their ability to concentrate tuna and their duration and economic viability. In addition, OPAGAC is committed to providing all the monitoring information of said BIOFADs, as established by IATTC's scientific staff.
This new generation of devices developed by the Spanish fleet, called BIOFADs, must comply with the requirements of being non-entangled, that is, not incorporating net meshes neither in its flotation structure or bag nor in its submerged structure or tail. In addition, they should not use synthetic materials of any kind - with the exception of their satellite buoy and the markers destined to their identification-, nor chemicals, such as paints, gums, resins or other glues, that may be toxic to the marine environment, which adds the characteristic of biodegradable (BIOFADs). In this way, they manage to minimize their impact on the ecosystem, eliminating the entanglement of sensitive species such as turtles and sharks, and reducing contamination with artificial materials.
The agreement complies with the guidelines of IATTC and the recommendations of its Scientific and Advisory Committee on the use of non-entangled FADs (NEFADs) and degradable FADs (BIOFADs), and in which other Ecuadorian ship owners participate, as well as AZTI and ISSF.
OPAGAC considers that this agreement is an important step to guarantee a selective and sustainable fishery.
The organization reminds that it was a pioneer in this field with the launch, in 2015, together with AZTI and ISSF, of an R&D project for the development of new non-entangling FAD devices, both in Indian and Atlantic waters; and of pilot projects with BIOFADs in the Indian Ocean co-financed with the EU and coordinated by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) since 2017. All these actions are part of the Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP) that OPAGAC is developing with WWF.
"Contrary to what some environmental groups and others that are dedicated to the fishing of tropical tuna with other modalities argue, purse-seine fishing with NEFADs registers an incidental capture rate that is increasingly close to zero and, thanks to new technologies of monitoring and control (FADWATCH), we have also managed to substantially reduce stranding risks," said OPAGAC managing director Julio Morón.
"Now, with the testing of the BIOFADs, we are making an additional effort to minimize the total impact of tuna fishing on the marine ecosystem," he concluded.