Wallis and Futuna is counting the number of lost and stranded fish-aggregating devices (FADs) that wash up on its coasts so it can calculate the damage they cause.
The campaign is being run by the Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service.
Bruno Mugneret, from the Department of Fishing and Management of Marine Resources in Wallis, said the number of washed-up FADs had become a problem.
“In Wallis and Futuna, the problem appeared with great intensity in 2019, when the population saw the resurgence of these objects on beaches, on reefs, in the lagoon, and also in the open sea around the islands, causing many questions about the origin and the activities associated with this multiplication,” he said.
The Fisheries Service is collecting data from fishers and local populations. It will use a radio campaign to raise awareness in communities about their important role as “sentries” in locating washed up FADs.
The results of the research will be shared with coastal communities, so they can help develop ways of managing the FADs and protecting coastal environments.
The Wallis and Futuna research complements a study on where drifting FADs ended up being stranded in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. One of the scientists involved in the study was Lauriane Escalle, of the Pacific Community (SPC).
“SPC conducted this study to estimate the impact that the massive use of FADs can have on the coastal areas of our region. The data available demonstrate a certain under-estimation of strandings,” Dr Escalle told Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service people at the launch of the local campaign.
She said it was important that island nations and territories collect information on stranded FADs to contribute to existing databases that are used to assess grounding rates and the consequences of strandings on coastal ecosystems and local fisheries.
Dr Escalle was also involved in research that determined that between 30,000 and 65,000 drifting FADs are deployed a year in the WCPO by industrial fishers. At least 7% of them become stranded. The largest numbers have washed up on the coasts of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
Although drifting FADs have become an important tool in increasing tuna catches and in the profitability of fishing fleets, the sheer numbers of them are causing environmental problems and are a drain on budgets of island states that are left to dispose of them.
The Wallis and Futuna campaign began in February. The territory is a member of SPC.