Progress report of Project 110: Non-entangling and biodegradable FAD trial in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean

Escalle L, Moreno G, Wichman J, et al (2023) Progress report of Project 110: Non-entangling and biodegradable FAD trial in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. In: WCPFC Scientific Committee 19th Regular Session. WCPFC-SC19-2023/EB-WP-02, Koror, Palau

WCPFC Project 110 (the project) is conducting trials of non-entangling and biodegradable drifting Fish Aggregation Devices (dFADs) in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), with the objective to provide essential information to the WCPFC and tuna fishing industry on the designs, types of materials, performance, implementation challenges and cost-effectiveness of non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs in the WCPO context. The project will support industry to uptake more ecologically sustainable dFAD designs and provide the WCPFC with information to support consideration of Conservation and Management Measures (CCM)s related to non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs. While Project 110 was initially planned to start in March 2021, the design phase of the non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs and the trials at-sea could not start as planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions put in place by various coastal states on access to ports and materials. The project, however, made substantial progress in 2022 and the first half of 2023, when the first trial non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs were deployed. We have also been collaborating closely with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) on nonentangling and biodegradable dFAD trials in the Pacific, involving both this project and their US Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP) project, so that data, skills and resources can be leveraged across all the bioFADs work in the Pacific. The BREP project is in collaboration with the US purse seine fleet. Five stakeholders representing more than 15 fishing companies (Caroline Fisheries Company (“CFC”); FCF Co., Ltd (“FCF”); the American Tunaboat Association (“ATA”), including Cape Fisheries; and Silla) were identified and engaged as project partners. Initial planning and training workshops have been held in three construction locations: Pohnpei (Federated States of Micronesia), Manta (Ecuador) and Pago Pago (American Samoa). The initial phase of the project allowed the identification of an appropriate non-entangling and biodegradable design to be tested, and it was decided to use the “jelly-FAD” developed by ISSF and the Insitute de Ciències del Mar in Barcelona (Spain). A total of 214 jelly-FADs are planned to be constructed and deployed by the industry partners as part of Project 110 and 216 as part of the ISSF-led BREP project. As of July 2023, 180 jelly-FADs have been constructed and 72 deployed as part of Project 110 led by SPC, and 216 have been constructed and 52 deployed as part of the ISSF BREP project. The costs associated with materials and construction of the jelly-FADs, as part of this trial, were 500–550 USD / FAD, but 350–362 USD / FAD if only the materials and their shipment are considered. Preliminary results of the project included evaluation of the catches from 11 sets on the jelly-FADs deployed so far for the project, with an average of 26.8 t taken on sets on these FADs.