FAD-Watch partner organisations Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Islands Development Company (IDC), Island Conservation Society (ICS) and the Spanish Purse-seining organisatioon AGAC-OPAGAC met in Seychelles last month to review progress over the last 18 months since the FAD-Watch Programme’s inception.
Fish aggregating devices (FADs) are man-made floating platforms set in the ocean by fishing vessels to attract fish and make them easier to catch. When this purpose drifts, as do the FADs, fragile marine life, coral reefs, lagoons and beaches can suffer.
The FAD-WATCH project has developed a system which enables ICS Conservation Teams to monitor FADs entering 5- and 3 nautical mile buffer zones around Seychelles islands managed by IDC. FAD monitoring software, provided to ICS by FAD manufacturers SatLink and Marine Instruments, can report FAD positions at very short intervals. This means ICS can constantly track FADs and monitor their movements as they approach reef and land. If a FAD has drifted inside the 5 mile zone, ICS can then intervene to retrieve it prior to beaching. This prevents damage to coral reef, seagrass and beach habitats, as well as stopping the FAD becoming marine pollution or worse, a death trap for non-target marine species such as turtles, sharks and billfish.
The objective is to obtain information on the impacts from FADs in Seychelles using real data, rather than theoretical estimates obtained from past studies. This will enable us to accurately quantify the number of potential FAD beaching events and evaluate the efficiency of the Project to date in preventing such destructive beaching events. ICS will be offering suggestions for more environmentally friendly and biodegradable FAD designs to further mitigate the issue.
A Report on the number of FAD beaching events that have been avoided thanks to ICS intervention in 2017 will be published in early 2018. The report will also estimate the total number of potential FAD beachings which would have occurred in the absence of ICS interception.
The first of its kind in the world, FAD-WATCH is a great example of successful collaboration between a coastal state administration, local NGOs, and the fishing industry. It is now time for other fleets to join the Project to help Seychelles achieve reef and beach environments that are totally free from FAD debris, by 2020.