Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices in the Indian Ocean: Impacts, Management, and Policy Implications

Sheik Heile A, Dyer E, Bealey R, Bailey M (2024) Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices in the Indian Ocean: Impacts, Management, and Policy Implications. Research Square preprint: https://doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-4001512/v1

The Indian Ocean has seen a significant increase in drifting fish aggregating devices (dFADs) used in purse seine fisheries, resulting in an exponential rise in tropical tuna catches. However, the negative impacts such as catches of juvenile tunas, increase in catches of non-targeted species, ghost fishing, and abandoned and lost fishing gear remain a significant concern of developing coastal States. The study examines the abundance and ecosystem consequences of abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) dFADs in the Indian Ocean, focusing on their impact on the marine ecosystem, risks to marine ecosystems and the legality of these unauthorized ALDFG dFADs posing IUU fishing on the Somali coast. The study also critically evaluates the effectiveness of existing regulatory frameworks and governance mechanisms in addressing these issues. Investigating the prevalence of ALDFG dFADs in Somalia's waters, the paper underscores the failure of current Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) dFAD management and governance frameworks to mitigate these impacts effectively. Over a six-month period, 63 dFADs were opportunistically recovered along the sample coastline, projecting an annual influx of approximately 160 dFADs, not one was fully compliant with IOTC regulations. The research further calculated a proportional number of dFADs per km per annum over the entire Somali shelf, estimating a total of approximately 1,439 dFADs recovered annually. The study's findings reveal explicit non-compliance with existing regulations, emphasizing the urgent need for enhanced monitoring, regulatory measures, and international cooperation to address the challenges posed by dFADs to marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of coastal communities.