The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) is pleased that there will be early discussions – and hopefully agreement – on much-needed improvements in the management of drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (dFADs; referred to as FADs here). Japan states in document PA1-22 that in order to reduce the fishing mortality of the bigeye tuna stock, a combination of a TAC reduction and effective FAD management are essential. While IPNLF agrees that tuna specific sustainability is indeed an important objective, it is equally important that wider environmental and ecosystem impacts associated with FADs are also urgently addressed. In that respect, we welcome that the EU mentions in document PA1-23 that there is a need for “making operators accountable for the damage caused by their FADs (e.g. coral reefs, navigational hazards), or what could be considered as the dumping at sea of nondegradable materials. […] This occurs in the context of growing pressure to address marine litter and thus to reconsider the sustainability of deploying FADs without facing proper accountability for their impact on the environment.”
Despite some of these welcome views, IPNLF remains highly concerned that yet again proposed management measures do not go far enough to effectively improve the regulation of FADs. The lack of transparency and accountability associated with the use of FADs in the Atlantic Ocean should not be tolerated in the context of well-managed fisheries. Specifically, IPNLF would like to raise the following issues:
• FAD numbers: As mentioned by the EU: “The process of verifying the current limits on FADs numbers is complex and challenging […] This process lacks transparency and independence from fishing operators.” IPNLF agrees with the assertion by the EU that the process to impose FAD limits currently lacks transparency. FAD number limits can only be effective if the deployment, tracking, retrieval, and disposal of FADs is done in a transparent way that does not only rely on self-reporting by the purse seine industry. The satellite buoys attached to FADs make the independent verification by electronic means very feasible. A comprehensive regional tracking system to accurately quantify and monitor FAD numbers and locations in near real time should therefore be implemented as a matter of priority. This will not only make the development of science-based regulatory measures possible to better understand the impacts of FADs on tropical tuna stocks, minimise bycatches and catches of vulnerable species, but also help to ascertain the contribution of FADs to marine pollution. Without a regional FAD monitoring and tracking system, where FAD data is shared beyond the flag state, questions will always be raised about the credibility of FAD data. Additionally, a regional VMS would, among other benefits, provide for a verification mechanism by combining FAD tracking and VMS data to establish when vessels are fishing upon FADs.
In the meantime, while transparency issues are addressed, IPNLF urges the Commission to impose further precautionary limits on the number of FADs, as already self-imposed by several African CPCs, so that the negative impacts of FADs can be further reduced. As stated by the EU “it will take several years before the effects of these measures on the stocks status can be evaluated by the SCRS”. An absence of science should not be used as an excuse to not implement precautionary measures that will rebuild the overfished bigeye tuna stock and limit the ecosystem impacts caused by FADs.
• FAD sets: We do not agree with the proposals from the EU and Japan that limitations of FAD sets are more achievable and therefore a better approach than implementing FAD number limits. While we do think that FAD set limitations could in theory be a good idea, there are a number of challenges to effective implementation of this management tool and therefore in practice it is unlikely to be effective. The biggest problem with this approach is that ICCAT currently has no clear definition of what constitutes a FAD set, and that observers on purse seiners are not equipped to accurately distinguish a FAD set from a non-FAD set. Any definition of a FAD set needs to be aligned with scientific best practices, which suggest that a distance of 2 to 5 nautical miles from a FAD would be the most appropriate measure to ensure that free-swimming schools lack any association with a FAD. Until a clear, science-based definition of a FAD set is adopted at ICCAT, the current measure that limits the number of FADs per vessel is still a better management option.
FAD set limits were an option for FAD management in the WCPFC for several years, however it was considered ineffective and removed as a management option due to difficulties including the ability to monitor and enforce the limits. Given that the ability to monitor and enforce the use of FADs is even weaker in ICCAT waters (no centralised VMS, no regional observer program, no sharing of data, few CPCs submitting data on FAD use) and that no clear definition of a FAD set has yet been adopted, IPNLF is of the view that it would not be wise for ICCAT to pursue this measure. Not only would it be nearly impossible to monitor and enforce FAD set limits with the data that is currently made accessible to fisheries managers, but the necessary rigour needed for science-based limits would also be lacking.
• FAD closure: As mentioned by the USA in PA-24: “Provisions on FAD closures and FAD limits are of utmost importance to ensure appropriate limits on fishing effort on juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna.” IPNLF shares the concerns that “the current provisions of Rec. 19-02, including the current three-month Atlantic-wide FAD closure and 300 FAD-per-vessel limit, may not go far enough to protect juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna.” In addition to maintaining the current FAD closure, it is crucial that additional measures be found. Also, it should be assessed if the FAD closure has been effective and adjusting the closure as needed to effectively reduce juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna fishing mortality.
• Registering/tracking FADs: The excessive and non-transparent use of FADs continues to drive high catches of juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna, representing a major contributor to the overfished state of the bigeye tuna stock. Also, deliberate abandonment of FADs likely constitutes infringements of MARPOL Annex V, the London Convention, London Protocol and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and should be prohibited. FAD components should be marked according to the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Marking of Fishing Gear while independent verification of FAD designs and construction materials should also be required prior to each deployment. FAD ownership must be assigned at the time of deployment and should not be allowed to change hands until the FAD is recovered and returned to port for responsible disposal. As an initial step, we welcome the setting up of a regional FAD registry as proposed by the EU – a process that should be initiated without delay. Ultimately, the lack of transparency prevalent in FAD operations needs to be addressed as a matter of priority so that FAD owners can take responsibility for the negative environmental impacts caused by these devices.
• Active FADs: As reminded by the USA: “In 2019, the following provision was removed from the draft measure late in the negotiations: 20 bis. [FADs / Buoys] shall be activated on the vessel at the time of their deployment and shall remain active until they are retrieved or lost. (Would fit as 30 bis in the current measure) This provision reflects a best practice identified by the SCRS, the ICCAT FAD Working Group, and the Kobe Joint Tuna RFMO FAD Working Group.” We share the USA disappointment that it was not included in Rec. 19-02 and very much encourage it to be reinstated in upcoming drafts and ensure its subsequent adoption.
• Biodegradable/non-entangling FADs: The intent of para 40 of Rec. 19-02 on non-entangling and biodegradable FADs needs to be fully respected. We welcome the suggestion by the USA about the need for additional guidance on the definition of “biodegradable”. The following is a potential definition which is aligned with international marine pollution law: “biodegradable materials means any materials capable of being naturally decomposed within a short amount of time by bacteria or other living organisms that naturally occur in the marine environment and thereby avoid pollution”. Further, for a FAD to be completely non‑entangling, it must use no netting materials either in the surface structure (raft) or the submerged structure. Considerable improvements need to be implemented in how FADs are managed so that a responsible fishing industry can play their part in putting the bigeye tuna stock on a pathway to recovery, while also protecting and restoring biodiversity, including threatened and endangered species, habitats and ecological functions and ultimately safeguarding the livelihoods that these resources support.
The ICCAT Convention Area is home to many one-by-one tuna fisheries, including pole-and-line (baitboat), troll, and handline fisheries harvesting temperate and tropical Atlantic tunas in at least sixteen Atlantic coastal States. All require sustainable management of internationally shared fish stocks by ICCAT to support their fisheries and reliant communities.
The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) promotes the sustainable management of the world’s responsible pole-and-line, handline and troll (collectively known as ‘one-by-one’) tuna fisheries while also recognising the importance of safeguarding the livelihoods they support.
IPNLF’s work to develop, support and promote one-by-one tuna fisheries is subsequently fully aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We believe effective and equitable global governance is essential to protect and restore the ocean, and this should be achieved by ensuring the participation of local and coastal communities in decision-making processes.
Environmental sustainability in tuna fisheries can only be fully achieved by also putting an end to the overfishing and destructive fishing practices that are driving the degradation of already threatened marine species, habitats and ecosystems. Allied with its members, IPNLF demonstrates the value of one-by-one caught tuna to consumers, policymakers and throughout the supply chain. IPNLF works across science, policy and the seafood sector, using an evidence-based, solutions-focused approach with strategic guidance from our Board of Trustees and advice from our Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) and Market Advisory Group (MAG).
IPNLF was officially registered in the United Kingdom in 2012 (Charity 1145586), with branch offices in the UK, South Africa, Indonesia, The Netherlands, and the Maldives.
Yaiza Dronkers Londoño – IPNLF Atlantic Region Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org