A polluter pays principle for drifting FADs – how it could be applied?
The use of drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs) continues to threaten endangered, threatened, and protected species (ETP), as well as the broader marine environment in the form of marine litter and abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) that can damage fragile coastal ecosystems. In the Indian Ocean, as in all other ocean regions, there is an urgent need to improve the management of dFADS, primarily to reduce catches of juvenile tropical tunas, but also to help mitigate the other ecological impacts associated with drifting FADs, including marine plastic pollution, ghost fishing and the bycatch of turtles, sharks and marine mammals. The lack of transparency in how dFADs are deployed, tracked and retrieved and the lack of responsibility dFAD owners take for the ecosystem and habitat damage and the pollution caused by these devices is of great concern. The ‘polluter pays’ principle is the commonly accepted practice that those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment. It is part of a set of broader principles to guide sustainable development worldwide - formally known as the 1992 Rio Declaration. This paper suggests that compensatory mechanisms should be developed, which incorporate and implement a Polluter Pays Principle, so that Indian Ocean coastal states are not saddled with the financial cost burden associated with the removal of derelict dFADs from the ocean. Such a compensatory mechanism should also provide coastal states with a framework for compensation for the ecosystem and habitat damage caused by dFADs.