Ghost fishing mortality and habitat damage from ALD drifting FADs
A major concern associated with the use of dFADs is the widespread use and numbers of dFADs getting abandoned, lost and discarded (Gomez et al. 2020). Of all the types of marine litter, abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gears (ALDFG) represent the greatest threat to marine life as they continue capturing, entangling, and killing a variety of marine species through what is termed “ghost fishing”. Stranding of abandoned dFADs also frequently damage sensitive marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass beds and can continue to do so for decades after being abandoned or lost by a fishing vessel (Burt et al. 2020 and Imzilen et al. 2021). In the remote UNESCO World Heritage site of Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, a recent assessment shows some 83% of the 513 tonnes of marine litter consists of waste originating from regional fishery industry (Burt et al. 2020)
Within the IOTC, the issue of ghost fishing and entanglements of endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species (sharks and turtles) were highlighted as early as 2003 by Chanrachkij, & Loog-on (2003). In a working paper submitted to the Working Party on Ecosystem and Bycatch (WPEB), Franco et al. (2009) state that ‘it is now urgent that fishers use ‘Ecological FADs' that reduce such ghost fishing in order to move towards sustainable and responsible purse seine fisheries’. Although, to what extent ‘ecological FADs’ will address the other aspects of dFAD use is unclear. Despite the clear and documented recognition as early as in 2003, not much progress has been made in addressing the issue. For instance, in the 25th Session of the IOTC Commission meeting held in 2021, the Secretariat noted the absence of publicly available information and data to inform science-based conservation and management of dFAD measures, as FAD related data is mired with confusion over terminology and poor reporting. This paper provides a brief review of recent literature on ghost fishing and habitat damage from dFAD strandings. This brief note provides a quick review of major issues in ghost fishing and habitat damage from dFAD strandings in the most recent literature.