Fishing tuna around Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) vs free swimming schools: Skipper decision and other determining factors
Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) are increasingly used by tuna purse-seine fleets all around the world, modifying the species catch composition. We analyse the determinants of FAD vs free school (FS) fishing, including the skipper effect, and environmental and economic factors. A multivariate and econometric analysis of a panel dataset for the French purse-seine fleet in the Indian Ocean (1980–2007), complemented by a survey of fishers, demonstrates the influential role of climate and prey on FAD fishing and also emphasises individual skipper preference. However, we found that the major determinant of FAD fishing remains the growing fishing capacity (use of bigger vessels, satellite buoys, echo-sounders, supply vessels), thus modifying the species catch composition towards smaller tuna. Other things being equal, raising the proportion of FAD sets by 1% would increase the catches of skipjack by 1.3% and decrease those of large yellowfin tuna by 1.7%. This result shows that the control of effort and investment could be adapted through management measures to encourage one fishing method.