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The growing case against FAD fishing

by Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna
September 22, 2014

The growing case against FAD fishing

Small choices we make every day affect the health of the planet we share. Many of us try to make healthy, sustainable food choices at the grocery store. We are increasingly concerned about the stages of the production of food: harvesting, storage, processing, packaging, sales and consumption. But we sometimes forget to look at how the food got to grocery store (and the environmental impact of that process).

A new scientific study-Fuel performance and carbon footprint of the global purse seine tuna fleet-by a group of international scholars published in the Journal of Cleaner Production has found that fishing operations that depend on fish aggregating devices (FADs) have a much larger carbon footprint than we initially thought.

The detrimental ecological effects of FAD fishing are well documented. Studies consistently find that using FADs to catch tuna has a catastrophic effect on tuna stocks around the world. FADs not only attract fish, but also juvenile tuna, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, billfish, seabirds and other non-targeted marine animals, the majority of which are killed during the fishing operations. As the study points out, "[FADs also result in] reduced health conditions, due in many case to the drifting of FADs to areas with low productivity." As they drift, the FADs draw the ecosystem that developed around them to these low productivity waters, to the detriment of the marine life around them.

The study also shows that it gets worse; not only does FAD fishing devastate marine ecosystems, the carbon footprint of FAD fishing operations is higher than for those fishing operations that target free school of tuna.

"[A] link between economic effectiveness and industrial efficiency of FAD-employing vessels does not necessarily exist. Indeed, it appears that those vessels which are more dependent on FADs for their tuna landings are actually burning greater amounts of fuel and thus producing a larger carbon footprint."

This begs the question: If FAD fishing is bad for marine ecosystems, bad for all manners of species and not more fuel efficient, why are FADs so popular among fishing fleets?

It all comes back to the stranglehold that Earth Island Institute has on the tuna market in the United States. Having successfully set themselves up (through bullying and intimidation) as the arbiter of what is and what is not "dolphin-safe," Earth Island forces commercial fisheries to use these irresponsible and devastating fishing practices. The mountain of evidence against FAD fishing continues to build while inflicting irreparable harm to our oceans and our planet. It is not right. It is way past time for us all to take a stand and GET CONTROL OF FAD fishing.