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Does fishing on drifting fish aggregation devices endanger the survival of tropical tuna?
Date:5/15/2008

catches of skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), bigeye (Thunnus obesus) and yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) tuna, the three tropical tuna species which can be caught at drifting FADs, have been achieved using this fishing method. For the skipjack amounts taken under drifting FADs reached even as high as 72% of all catches. To check if the large-scale deployment of drifting FADs could present an ecological trap for these species, a range of biological (fish plumpness, growth rate, stomach fullness) and ecological (migration pattern and distance) indices were determined on yellowfin and skipjack captured under FADs in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Comparison was then made with data gathered from free-school caught individuals of these same species. A salient finding was that 74% of drifting FAD-associated skipjack had empty stomachs at the moment of capture compared with only 13% for those fished from free schools. Figures of the same order of magnitude were obtained for yellowfin, with proportions respectively reaching 49% caught on drifting FADs and 7% from free schools. The survey indicated that the tuna caught under the FADs fed less well than those fished from free schools. Moreover, the fact that for the same weight the FAD-associated specimens caught showed lower plumpness than the free-school ones could reflect a deficiency in energy-reserve accumulation in those that concentrated around the floating devices.

The research team also sought to find out if the large-scale deployment of drifting FADs could affect the migration patterns of these far-travelling fish species. Tagging surveys allowed comparison of the nature of migrations accomplished by fish moving with the drift of FADs with that of non-FAD-associated individuals. The migration directions and displacement rates in terms of daily distances travelled were indeed affected by the presence of artificial floating objects. Drifting FADs therefore appeared to act as super-stimuli, like strong magnets ex
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Contact: Gregory Flechet
fichesactu@paris.ird.fr
33-014-803-7607
Institut de Recherche Pour le Dveloppement
Source:Eurekalert

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