Main results of the Spanish Best Practices program: evolution of the use of Non-entangling FADs, interaction with entangled animals, and fauna release operations
About half of the tropical tuna caught worldwide annually is fished by purse seiners mainly using fish aggregating devices (FADs). These devices, although being a very effective fishing tool, are also controversial due to their potential impacts on the ecosystem. Since 2012, Spanish tuna freezer organizations OPAGAC and ANABAC have a voluntary self-regulated code for responsible tuna fishing. This agreement aims to decrease impacts and improve the long-term sustainability of the tuna fishery, with particular emphasis on FAD-related issues. The code promotes best fishing practices by reducing mortality of incidental catch of sensitive species (sharks, rays, mantas, whale sharks, and sea turtles) and the use of non-entangling FADs. In addition to that, the agreement is based on the following points: 100% observer coverage, continuous training of fishing crew and scientific observers, implementation of a FAD logbook, creation of a Steering Committee and continuous monitoring and data analysis by the independent scientific body AZTI.
In order to monitor and assess the level of compliance of these good practices, a system of monitoring and verification has being implemented since late 2014, and is continuously evaluated, in all the vessels of the ANABAC and OPAGAC fleets (64 purse seiners and 23 supply vessels), including Spanish and other flags, operating globally in 4 tuna RFMOs areas (ICCAT, IOTC, WCPFC and IATTC). The verification is based on specifically designed data-collection forms and in-situ observations recorded by trained scientific observers, and more recently, also by electronic monitoring systems (see the other document in this meeting by Lopez et al. to get details on the system of verification). Although several research institutes are involved in the program (e.g. IEO, Ocean Eye, SFA, TAAF, CSP…), AZTI is in charge of coordinating data collection and its posterior analysis by specifically developed R routines and programs. Significant results of the first two years of the Code of conduct are presented and discussed in this document.