Recovery at sea of abandoned, lost or discarded drifting fish aggregating devices
Tropical tuna purse-seine fishing vessels contribute to abandoned, lost or discarded (ALD) fishing equipment by deploying large numbers of drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (dFADs). Here we analysed more than 80,000 dFAD trajectories (56,263 tracking buoys) in the Indian and Atlantic oceans from 2012 to 2018. We found that more than 40% of dFAD trajectories ultimately drifted away from fishing grounds, becoming ALD. About 20% of these lost dFADs passed within 50 km of major ports, indicating that port-based programmes could be effective in collecting ALD dFADs at sea. We also identified areas within the fishing grounds where most dFADs exit and where high-seas recovery could be valuable. For example, most dFADs leaving Indian Ocean fishing grounds along their eastern border at ~70° E, particularly in October–December, do not return to fishing grounds. Despite considerable logistical challenges, at-sea dFAD recovery offers promising options for reducing the ecological footprints of purse-seine fisheries.