Fabrication and Deployment of Fish Aggregation....
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GRANT NUMBER:  NA17FD0243-01           NMFS NUMBER:   SWR-054

REPORT TITLE: Fabrication and Deployment of Fish Aggregation Devices

AUTHOR: Aldan, David T. and Seman, Richard B.; Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Saipan, MP


AVAILABLE FROM:  National Marine Fisheries Service, Southwest Regional Office, 501 West Ocean Boulevard, Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4018.  PHONE: (562) 980-4033


A rapidly increasing local population and an expanding tourist industry increased demand for fresh fish and fishery products in the CNMI in the early 1990s. This growth in fish consumption created substantial demand for tuna and other migratory pelagic fishes (i.e., wahoo, mahimahi, and billfishes). While inshore fisheries showed signs of over harvest, offshore pelagics were believed underutilized. In the CNMI, fishing is conducted from small boats with limited fuel capacity and restricted overall range. Fishermen travel offshore to harvest fish, normally by trolling or chasing fast-moving schools. This type of fishing is relatively inefficient requiring substantial fuel. Given the lack of mid-sized or large offshore commercial pelagic fishing vessels, it was perceived the small boat fleet needed enhancement to have even the slightest chance of commercial viability. FADs provided one possible enhancement method. 

In 1990, the CNMI DFW received S-K support for a project with the overall goal of developing a system of FADs in CNMI waters. The specific objectives were purchasing, assembling, deploying, and evaluating an improved FAD design (similar to that utilized in Hawaii). The DFW had previously purchased the line and hardware for eight FAD systems but lacked the resources to purchase buoys and pay for actual system deployments. Also the grant provided training for DFW staff on FAD deployment through a cooperative agreement with the State of Hawaii's DLNR. 

Because of limited staffing at the DFW, activity began in earnest in the first quarter of 1992 with the purchase of eight buoys from a local surplus yard in Hawaii. The used steel buoys were refurbished and modified in Hawaii to emulate the standard design of the Hawaii FAD buoys, shipped to Saipan, and the systems were assembled. In the interim, all planned FAD sites were surveyed for appropriate bottom configuration and placement. Actual FAD deployments took place in August 1993. Almost immediately the FADs began to produce increased catches of mahimahi, skip jack, and small yellowfin tuna according to sources at the DFW.

Individuals at the DFW attributed the FADs as being responsible for a substantial portion of the increased pelagic catch that occurred in early 1994. Fishermen also report the FADs "held the fish longer" allowing increased exploitation for a longer period of time (mahimahi tends to be seasonal in the CNMI). Beyond the purely commercial fishers the local sport charter boat fleet appears to benefit with increased success rates on trips. With the FADs local sport charter captains were assured of at least catching a skipjack or mahimahi for the predominantly Japanese clientele. This allowed the customer to partake in a "self-caught sashimi dish" (typically prepared onboard the charter vessel) leading to higher rates of customer satisfaction (consumer surplus).  

Despite the fact the project ran for 24 months, it is concluded that administratively the project was successfully implemented, and all of the original project objectives were successfully obtained. Total projects cost's were $81,692 of which $28,289 were identified as direct expenses. The project's total cost figure does not include any documented in-kind services; however, it is believed that the recipient provided some in-kind resources. Based on commercial catch rates and usage by recreational fishers, the NPV of the project is $3,360 with a B/C ratio of 1.04. The low return is in part attributed to the relatively short life of the FADs deployed.

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