FAD with sonar poses “game-changer” in tuna fishery

The introduction of sonar capable satellite buoys that are attached to FADs (Fish Aggregating Device) is poised to be a “game changer” in the Pacific’s lucrative skipjack tuna fishery with indications that it may change the way the skipjack fishery is managed and how the much acclaimed Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) is implemented in future. As currently implemented by the eight member countries of the Parties of the Nauru Agreement (PNA) and Tokelau, the VDS puts a cap on the number of fishing days made available to fish tuna in the waters of PNA member countries.

These are namely domestic boats and those from the European Union, United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, and Taiwan. Through the introduction of VDS, fishing effort has been limited, and tuna revenue for island nations has more than quadrupled over the last four to five years; from US$60 million in 2010 to about US$300 million today. At its inception, one fishing day was snapped up for between US$500 to $2500.

Today, some PNA countries are selling theirs from between US$10,000 to over $12,000 a day, with a minimum price of $8000 in 2015. Now an adjustment to the VDS may have to be considered with the recent introduction of sonar technology into FADs. Until now, fishing boats especially the gigantic purse seiners have been using FADS to make fishing more efficient. Fish tend to aggregate around these devices, which can either be anchored to the ocean floor, or more commonly drift freely.

All a purse seiner need to do is to steam to a floating FAD it had deployed weeks or months earlier to check on schools of tuna present. Prior to satellite tracking, less than 10 FADs could be managed, with satellite that went to up to 100, but still there was no guarantee that the FAD had attracted tuna.

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