The Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have been considering measures at a workshop in Honiara to strengthen the management of fishing on Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in PNA waters and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) more widely.
Fishing on FADs makes an important contribution to the benefits of PNA Members and other Pacific Island countries from their tuna resources. However, says the PNA CEO, Mr Ludwig Kumoru, speaking after the workshop, it is important to have a balanced approach to managing FADs that recognises the benefits from FAD fishing but also fully takes into account the adverse impacts on target and non-target stocks that are adversely impacted by fishing on FADs, and the broader ecological impacts.
The workshop is a response to calls by PNA Leaders at their Summit meeting in early 2018 and by PNA Ministers for strengthening of FAD management. At the workshop, PNA Members have agreed on proposals for improved information on FADs to be provided by vessel operators, and the transformation by mid 2020 of FAD designs to avoid entangling species such as turtles and sharks, and to be made of biodegradable materials. Further work is to be undertaken on measures for registration and tracking of FADs, control of FADs in EEZs, FAD retrieval and liability for beaching.
The PNA CEO rejected calls by some NGOs and fishing states for the WCPFC to follow approaches to FAD management used in other oceanic regions. It’s simple, said Mr Kumoru. In the WCPO, where fishing on FADs is well controlled, most of the purse seine catch comes from fishing on free schools, and all of the major tropical tuna stocks in the WCPO are in the “green” because they are being fished sustainably. In other oceanic regions where the purse seine fisheries are allowed to use FADs more heavily, most of the bigeye and yellowfin stocks are in trouble. This difference was largely because WCPFC’s focus, led by PNA, has been to reduce FAD fishing through well monitored and enforced FAD closures, in contrast to the apparent focus of NGOs and others which seems to be on data collection as a proxy for management. These arrangements have been backed up by the comprehensive PNA FAD tracking program, which is the world’s only region-wide FAD tracking program. The additional measures that PNA are now working on will further strengthen FAD management in PNA waters and the WCPO, said Mr Kumoru.