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Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs): Fishing Gear and Risks to Protected Species

NOTE: Gear types are listed by broad category. They are not intended to be specific to regional fishing practices.

Fish aggregating devices (FADs) are floating objects that are designed and strategically placed to attract pelagic fish.

Many pelagic species associate with natural FADs in the open ocean, such as logs, seaweed, and coconuts. Man-made FADs are constructed from a variety of materials. Ropes and lines encourage the settlement of marine plants and small crustaceans and mollusks, which in turn attract small fish. Fish finders may be attached to a FAD allowing fishermen to electronically "connect" to the FAD and see how many and at what depth the fish are located. Animals near the FADs are then harvested with seines, hooks, or longlines. There are various types of FADs:

FADs are most effective at attracting adult predatory fish when deployed in water deeper than 400 meters (1300 feet).

FADs can be deployed in shallow nearshore waters accessible to artisanal fishermen.

Target Species

Fisheries Regions

Risks to Sea Turtles

The largest threat to sea turtles from FADs is entanglement. Old nets, ropes, and lines that are used in constructing FADs entangle turtles that come into contact with them. Turtles can become entangled around their flippers, head, neck, and carapace by any lines or nets associated with the FAD. If a turtle becomes entangled beneath the FAD, the turtle will likely drown due to prolonged submergence. Injuries as a result of entanglement include: broken limbs, exhaustion, and lacerations that may occur as the turtle struggles to free itself from the lines or nets.

Additionally, turtles are bycatch victims in other fishing activities occurring around the FAD.

Risks to Marine Mammals

Similar to sea turtles, marine mammals can become entangled in any nets, ropes, and lines that are used in the FADs.

Static FADs secured to the sea floor are of greatest concern because marine mammals can become entangled or injured in the anchoring lines.

Cetaceans and pinnipeds can become entangled around their bodies, neck, or flippers. These entanglements can limit the animals' ability to swim and feed and could eventually lead to drowning if the animal is held underwater.

These FADs can also alter marine mammal feeding behavior by habituating them to a temporary and unnaturally aggregated food source.

Bycatch Reduction

There are no current mitigation measures in place for minimizing the impacts of FADs on marine mammals or sea turtles.

Additional Resources

Updated: January 30, 2014