Positive change for more sustainable seafood

In a momentous announcement, seafood giant Thai Union and Greenpeace jointly announced a deal to make significant sustainability improvements to Thai Union’s supply chain. One of these provisions calls for a 50% drop in Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in its supply chain by 2020, as well as doubling the amount of verifiable FAD-free fish in the global supply chain in that same window. Thai Union also announced a range of measures to tackle Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, address bycatch and improve traceability of their products.

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative welcomes this increased focus on FADs as one of the most contributing gear types to the problem of ghost fishing. In our recently developed Best Practice Framework for the Management of Fishing Gear, FADs were identified as the 3rd most likely gear type to contribute to ghost fishing after gillnets, pots and traps. When FADs are lost or abandoned, they contribute to the global ghost fishing problem until they sink or wash ashore in three primary ways: 1) they continue to attract and aggregate fish, potentially altering the behaviour or structure of tuna populations; 2) if not specifically designed to avoid accidental entanglement of sharks, turtles, and other non-target marine life, they continue to do so, even after being lost or abandoned; 3) they interact with coral reefs and other tropical, marine habitats that are sensitive to such interactions.

With FADs being used in more than 40% of the worlds tropical tuna catches and FAD loss becoming an increasingly important issue; this commitment from Thai Union is a welcome move and will pave the way for other companies to follow. In addition, it has been recognised that FADs have a high potential for improved design for reducing both the potential for ghost fishing as well as habitat interactions that are often associated with FAD use.

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative, with funding from the Belgian Government, recently commenced a pilot project in the South Pacific looking at  FAD management and current methods for marking and tracking to prevent loss with a view to contributing findings to this important discussion.

It is hoped that recommendations outlined in the Best Practice Framework (BPF) and well as findings from pilot projects will be adopted by more fishing companies, seafood suppliers and gear manufacturers moving forward, helping to prevent, mitigate and cure the harmful effects of ghost gear in the seafood supply chain.

The Best Practice Framework is still open for consultation and we welcome feedback from all industry stakeholders until July 31st 2017 via the survey link here