Report of Project 110 (2022): Non-entangling and biodegradable FAD trial in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean

Escalle L, Moreno G, Hare S, Hamer P (2022) Report of Project 110 (2022): Non-entangling and biodegradable FAD trial in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. In: WCPFC Scientific Committee 18th Regular Session. WCPFC-SC18-2022/EB-IP-01, Electronic Meeting

WCPFC Project 110 (the project) will conduct trials of non-entangling and biodegradable drifting Fish Aggregation Devices (dFADs) in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO). It will provide essential information to the tuna fishing industry on the designs, types of materials, performance and cost-effectiveness of non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs in the WCPO context, with the goal of supporting industry’s uptake of more ecologically sustainable dFAD designs. The aims of the project are the following:
1. Design/refine cost-feasibility of non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs. Informed by previous trials in the WCPO and other oceans, project 110 will build on fostering industry and national fishery agency input and utilize readily available (locally or shipped) suitable construction materials.
2. Undertake at-sea experiments to compare the performance of non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs to conventional dFADs.
3. Provide robust scientific advice to industry and national fisheries managers on the performance of non-entangling and biodegradable dFAD designs.
4. Increase regional support, capacity building and partnerships on dFAD research with various stakeholders in the WCPO.
Project 110 will include four stages:
1. Information gathering and planning workshops, identifying dFAD construction locations, detailing design of at-sea trials, and initiating capacity building on design and construction;
2. Constructing the experimental dFADs;
3. Conducting at-sea trials and broader industry outreach program;
4. Data analysis, reporting, final workshop and development of an industry plan of action.
Project 110 was initially planned to start in March 2021, however, the design phase of the non-entangling and biodegradable dFADs and the trials at-sea could not start in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions put in place by various coastal states with access to ports and materials. As a result, fishing companies contacted could not commit to starting such activities in 2021.
Several partner fishing companies have now been identified, with an agreement in principle to construct and deploy biodegradable dFAD in late 2022. The agreement in principle has been achieved between three fishing companies, and will be finalised with Letter Of Agreements (LOAs) in the coming weeks. In addition, a workshop with skippers of one fishing company occurred in June 2022 to discuss the intent of project 110 and better understand skippers perspectives and the logistics for achieving the projects objectives. Other activities within stage 1 have also commenced, with the literature review and online consultations with other researchers on dFAD designs was done to develop potential designs and identify materials needed. The summary of previous work is presented in Appendix 2 of this paper. Regular meetings with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) collaborators and potential partner fishing companies have been occurring since the beginning of 2022. An agreement has been made, between SPC, ISSF and the partner fishing companies, to test the Jelly-FAD design developed by ISSF. Discussions are continuing in terms of base ports, FAD construction locations and materials to be purchased. A purchase order for the satellite echo-sounder buoys to be deployed on the biodegradable FADs has been issued by SPC, for delivery later in 2022. Discussion with companies on the procurement of materials and construction of the bio-FADs are ongoing.

As the project was not able to start as planned in 2021, due to the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic, this has had a ripple effect with further delays in the project’s implementation. It is anticipated that the outcomes of project 110 will be delayed and will likely need at least a 1-year project extension request.
We invite WCPFC-SC18 to:
- Note the delays in the activities planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Note a no-cost project extension of at least one year can be expected to be requested from the donors and the WCPFC.
- Note the updated timing of activities, including those planned over the first year of the project.
- Note that first results from this project are expected to be available by SC19.
- Note the review of worldwide trials of Non-entangling and Biodegradable dFADs presented in Appendix 2.