HONIARA – Malaitan communities have already benefited from the provincial government’s initiative to provide coastal communities with fish-aggregating devices (FADs).
The initiative was launched in May 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is considered to be a sustainable fishing technology that can support the coastal communities of Malaita with their fishing activities.
The program was initiated following the declaration by the national government of a nation-wide state of public emergency as COVID-19 sky-rocketed in March 2020. It was reported that the Malaita Alliance or Rural Advancement (MARA) Government supported the Malaita Provincial Fishery Office with SBD$100,000 as part of its COVID-19 livelihood program through the FAD launches.
During the festive season, the sinking islands of Kwai and Ngongosila in east Malaita reaped their first harvest since the FAD was launched. The Provincial Member for Ward 16, Preston Billy, led the first harvest of fish stocks.
“Fisheries is an important source of income for the coastal communities of Malaita, and also the rest of the Solomon Islands. The pandemic has brought in a lot of challenges for our local fishing communities, thus driving the local government to aid its own people,” Mr Billy said.
“It was a great experience to be giving back to the people of my community, being a fisherman myself before heading into provincial politics. This initiative is the best that the local government can do for its people, especially during this pandemic period.
“I was also part of the first harvest and it’s good to see that the local fishermen and their families are benefiting greatly from it,” Mr Billy said.
The Kwai Island community representative, Victor Suraniu, said they were filled with pride as beneficiaries of the local FAD program.
“Thumbs up to the MARA Government for donating and installing the FADs in the last six months. Indeed, we are very proud of what you have done for the hundreds of people who have directly and indirectly benefited from the fishing project, both from the islands and the shoreline communities from Wards 15 and 16 in East Malaita,” Mr Suraniu said.
“We also wish to show gratitude to our Provincial Member, Preston Billy for taking the lead to ensure that the FAD program reaches our shores.”
However, they are calling on Mr Billy to also try all means possible to upgrade and revive the run-down fisheries centre in the area.
Mr Billy said that plans were already in place to upgrade the old fisheries centre, which is located on the mainland.
Principal fisheries officer Martin Jasper said they had benefited the communities.
“This is a very successful program thus far, however more and more people are requesting for devices to be installed in their waters,” Mr Jasper said.
“For the year 2021, a total of eight FADs will be distributed: six FADs will be for mainland Malaita and two FADs for Malaita Outer Islands. This FAD distribution is a continuation from the 2020 MARA-funded program by Malaita provincial government for its people.”
Mr Jasper said the idea behind the provision of FADs was to shift people’s fishing activities from overharvesting reefs by moving to FAD-based fishing.
He said the provincial government came in to support its people because it realised the importance of this. It could also see that it was an income-generating activity for people.
He said that the FAD assistance program also had wide support from the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
Mr Jasper’s office is also engaged in other programs such as community-based rehabilitation management for fisheries. He said work was also in progress in other fisheries programs such as the Bina Harbour project.
This group of Malaita residents is preparing to release a fish-aggregating device (FAD) at Uhu in the West Are’are area of Solomon Islands’ Malaita Province. Another has just been launched at Small Malaita.
The FAD releases are part of a $100,000 provincial government project to support livelihoods during COVID-19 restrictions. Work continues in the small island communities despite the current state of public emergency that is operating in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara.
For years, the Malaita Provincial Fishery Office in Auki has supported coastal communities with the deployment of FADs. In May, the fisheries officers put FADs to sea near Kwai and Ngongosila Islands in East Malaita, and Musukwi in North Malaita. It plans to extend the use of FADs to the Malaita Outer Islands soon.
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.
“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.
HONIARA, 27 March 2020 – WITH the increasing threats of climate change on local fishing grounds of coastal communities around Malaita Province in Solomon Islands, communities are seeing the importance of the fish-aggregating devices (FADs) in providing them with alternative fishing grounds.
In Solomon Islands, small-scale commercial fisheries are dotted around the provinces, and focus on providing mainly sea resources such as sea shells, beche-de-mer, and shark fins for export.
These commodities are an important source of cash for local Solomon Islanders. However, in recent years, coastal communities in the Solomon Islands have seen drastic changes that have affected their daily fishing activities.
These changes gave birth to the local marine management area (LMMA) initiative, through which coastal communities around Malaita understood the importance of protecting their reefs from overfishing and other harvesting activities.
Malaita provincial government and WorldFish
Since 2018, eight communities in Malaita Province have utilised FADs to make their fishing easier. They are Suava Bay, Onepusu and Mandalua in North Malaita; Gwanatafu in West Fataleka; Fote, and Bio in West Kwara’ae; Ta’arutona in West Are’are; and Ambitona in East Kwaio.
The Malaita Provincial Fisheries office and WorldFish Auki have teamed up for the great partnership, which resulted in eight FADs being deployed in the seas near these communities in March 2018.
The FADs were deployed by a team consisting of people from WorldFish and Malaita Provincial Fisheries. The eight communities are believed to have put into practice LMMAs, to restrict use of reefs close to their villages from being fished or gleaned.
The aim of deploying the FADs to these communities is to provide the communities with an alternative fishing area to prevent the villagers from engaging in fishing activities in the LMMA. More communities in Malaita are now adapting the concept of LMMA to protect their marine resources from over-harvesting and the fear of marine resource extinction.
Today, due to the value of marine resources like fish and seashells in Solomon Islands domestic markets, people put more pressure on the reefs than ever in human history. Harvesting of marine resources for daily food and income over the years has so affected many reefs in Malaita that they have lost much of their rich marine life.
Some communities have begun to realise that relying heavily on the reefs needs to be stopped to allow reefs to revive, and their marine richness to return and continue to provide the current generation and future generations with food and income.
However, the challenge that materialises for adopting an LMMA is that it prevents communities that depend on reefs from looking elsewhere for fish and seashells to satisfy daily needs. This is becoming irritation, especially to those who depend on harvesting marine resources.
According to Martin Jasper from the Malaita Provincial Fisheries office in Auki, the FADs are actually meant to relieve fishing pressure from the reefs, especially when the reefs are put under an LMMA to regain their rich marine life.
“This is the second phase of the project implemented under the Coral Triangle Initiative and funded by Asian Development Bank,” Mr Jasper said.
“WorldFish in collaboration with the Malaita Provincial Fisheries deployed FADs to the eight selected communities that applied for the FADs.
“More than 50 communities applied, and only eight were accepted due to limited funds available,” he added.
Mr Jasper explains that before the distribution and installation of the FADs, an awareness tour and constructions of FADs and anchors was conducted in March 2018.
“This tour was for definite deployment of FADs and community-based resource management awareness that linked with FADs activities,” he said.
Following the deployment of the FADs, communities in North Malaita have told the Auki Provincial Fisheries office that they are benefiting from the FADs as the equipment made fishing easier for them, which means they do not have to fish in the LMMA.
In the meantime, Mr Jasper is calling on the eight communities to take care of the FADs so that they will continue to attract more fish to make fishing easier.
Not only that, he also extended the call to sea users, fishers, and the travelling public to respect the FADs because they are deployed purposely to provide alternative fishing ground for the communities to relieve pressure on their reefs.
Mr Jasper said there are few
recorded incidents of FAD vandalism, where people cut the anchor and ropes
attached to the FADs for no good reason.
“FADs have played a major role in communities practicing LMMA because without FADs people will not respect the LMMA and will continue to harvest marine resources in the management areas,” he said.
community’s FAD engagement
Learning from the success of the eight communities, the Lilisiana community in the Langalanga division of Malaita decided to follow suit. Like other coastal communities, the people of Lilisiana derived much of their protein from fish while selling surplus supply at Auki, Malaita’s provincial capital, to meet other household needs and wants.
However, their heavy reliance on the resource depleted the supply of fish in the nearby reefs. This situation forced the fishers of Lilisiana to paddle further out to sea to fish.
The fishers blamed that the change in weather conditions, saying they had muddled up the regular migratory fish pattern. The presence of seasonal fish species such as yellowfin tuna, rainbow fish and even kingfish appear to be unpredictable to most, even to the elites in the trade.
As a result, fishing becomes harder and fishers often return home with very small catche that are sometimes enough for family consumption only. Whenever a fishing trip is unsuccessful, it badly affects family income.
In 2017, the fishermen of Lilisiana formed a group called the Auki Bay Fishermen Association (ABFA). ABFA was established to create an avenue for fishers of Lilisiana to support their families through the provision of food and income.
The group created a FAD in January 2019 and had it deployed at sea.
The FADs assist local fishers to gain access to tuna stocks, and minimise their travel costs (boat fuel and time). FADs also improve safety at sea by reducing the need to fish far away, and encouraging fishers to fish at least some of the time in a “known” place.
ABFA is the first fishing association in Malaita Province to create a FAD at the village level without assistance from the Ministry of Fisheries.
ABFA chairman Joe Talanimoli told Malaita Star Magazine during the official launching of the FAD in January this year that making a FAD at the village wasn’t easy.
“To make a FAD at the village level without funding support is not an easy task because everything costs money,” Talanimoli said.
However, through collaborative and collective efforts from more than 100 ABFA members, they managed to complete the FAD which cost them over $8,000 within two weeks.
“Most of the materials required and used for the FAD were sourced from villagers at affordable cost,” the chairman added.
Now that the FAD was finally deployed at sea, ABFA members could now look forward to improving their catches to support their families, he said with a smile.
Following the launch, ABFA appointed a body that is responsible for maintaining the FAD.
Since the introduction of the initiative two years ago, the communities had benefited greatly from the FAD initiative. Auki market, as well as Honiara Central market, are the usual destinations of FAD catches.
However, to ensure that everyone gets maximum benefits from the initiative, all fishers and community members were told to look after the equipment so that it would continue to support them meet their family needs and wants. The communities were also cautioned about penalties under the Fisheries Act if someone was found tampering with or vandalising the equipment.
The technical manual covers standard designs for different kinds of anchored FADs, and some regional modifications of these. It also discusses technical considerations for the design of upper floatation devices, main lines, and anchors, and considers deployment location and techniques from different kinds of fishing vessels, and maintaining FADs.
The manual improves on a 2005 edition by drawing on the experience and lessons learned by users of FADs across the Pacific.
The manual is published by the Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The new manual doesn’t replace the old ones, which FAME says still contains useful technical information. However, FAME said it became clear in 2016 that the older manual did need updating, when Pacific FAD users came together to share their knowledge and experiences in FAD design and innovation.
They said information that was still relevant in the 2005 edition had not been repeated in the new manual, but was referred to.
A fisheries information management system, touted as a key element for Pacific islands to control the tuna fishery, has been purchased by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA).
Developed by Quick Access Computing of Australia, initially in collaboration with the National Fisheries Authority in Papua New Guinea, the Integrated Fisheries Information Management System (iFIMS) has become the tool used by all members of the PNA to manage the multi-billion dollar skipjack tuna fishery in the western and central Pacific.
PNA leaders had been debating purchasing the system to own it outright for the past two years. PNA ministers at a meeting in September approved the plan to purchase the system, which reportedly has a price tag over $US10 million.
PNA recently established a new company in the Marshall Islands, FIMS Inc, to manage the system, said FIMS board chair Mathew Chigiyal, who works for the National Oceanic Resource Management Authority in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The change in ownership of the fisheries information management system will not affect fisheries departments, industry and other existing users, who would continue receiving services as valued clients, said Mr Chigiyal.
The iFIMS system was described last year as a “game-changer” by PNA chief executive Ludwig Kumoru.
“We are able to control and manage our fishery because we now control the information through iFIMS,” he said.
For decades, Pacific Island fisheries officials were “driving blind” for lack of information on the commercial tuna fishery they were mandated to manage.
Catch data, vessel locations, transshipment activity, use of fish aggregating devices – this and more was controlled by fishing nations, with little information available to inform management decisions by island fisheries departments about their resources.
The development of iFIMS, however, revolutionised management of the tuna fishery by PNA. The system was initially developed by Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority (NFA). It now contains sections for data for the NFA, PNA, fishing industry and flag states that have oversight of fishing fleets.
“This is the world’s first information platform that integrates fisheries management, compliance and marketing,” said NFA vessel monitoring system manager David Karis, who developed the web-based platform.
Prior to electronic reporting, it could take three to four months for daily catch logs filled out by purse seine vessel captains to arrive to fisheries managers in the region.
“Now, through iFIMS, we have this information in real time,” said Mr Karis.
“About 240 purse seiners are reporting real time catch data daily.”
Tropical tuna are one of the few wild animals we still hunt in large numbers, but finding them in the vast Pacific ocean can be tremendously difficult. However, fishers have long known that tuna are attracted to, and will aggregate around, floating objects such as logs.
In the past, people used bamboo rafts to attract tuna, fishing them while they were gathered underneath. Today, the modern equivalent – called fish aggregating devices, or FADs – usually contain high-tech equipment that tell fishers where they are and how many fish have accumulated nearby.
It’s estimated that between 30,000 and 65,000 man-made FADs are deployed annually and drift through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean to be fished on by industrial fishers. Pacific island countries are reporting a growing number of FADs washing up on their beaches, damaging coral reefs and potentially altering the distribution of tuna.
Our research in two papers, one of which was published today in Scientific Reports, looks for the first time at where ocean currents take these FADs and where they wash up on coastlines in the Pacific.
Attracting fish and funds
We do not fully understand why some fish and other marine creatures aggregate around floating objects, but they are a source of attraction for many species. FADs are commonly made of a raft with 30-80m of old ropes or nets hanging below. Modern FADs are attached to high-tech buoys with solar-powered electronics.
The buoys record a FAD’s position as it drifts slowly across the Pacific, scanning the water below to measure tuna numbers with echo-sounders and transmitting this valuable information to fishing vessels by satellite.
Throughout their lifetimes FADs may be exchanged between vessels, recovered and redeployed, or fished and simply left to drift with their buoy to further aggregate tuna. Fishers may then abandon them and remotely deactivate the buoys’ satellite transmission when the FAD leaves the fishing area.
Fishing licence fees can provide up to 98% of government revenue for some Pacific Island countries and territories. These countries balance the need to sustainably manage and harvest one of the only renewable resources they have, while often having a limited capacity to fish at an industrial scale themselves.
FADs help stabilise catch rates and make fishing fleets more profitable, which in turn generate revenue for these nations.
The abandonment or loss of FADs adds to the growing mass of marine debris floating in the ocean, and they increasingly damage coral as they are dragged and get caught on reefs.
Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know how the distribution of FADs affects fishing effort in the region. Given that each fleet and fishing company has their own strategy for using FADs, understanding how the total number of FADs drifting in one area increases the catch of tuna is crucial for sustainably managing these valuable species.
Where do FADs end up?
Our research, published in Environmental Research Communications and Scientific Reports, used a regional FAD tracking program and fishing data submitted by Pacific countries, in combination with numerical ocean models and simulations of virtual FADs, to work out how FADs travel on ocean currents during and after their use.
In general, FADs are first deployed by fishers in the eastern and central Pacific. They then drift west with the prevailing currents into the core industrial tropical tuna fishing zones along the equator.
We found equatorial countries such as Kiribati have a high number of FADs moving through their waters, with a significant amount washing up on their shores. Our research showed these high numbers are primarily due to the locations in which FADs are deployed by fishing companies.
In contrast, Tuvalu, which is situated on the edge of the equatorial current divergence zone, also sees a high density of FADs and beaching. But this appears to be an area that generally aggregates FADs regardless of where they are deployed.
Unsurprisingly, many FADs end up beaching in countries at the western edge of the core fishing grounds, having drifted from different areas of the Pacific as far away as Ecuador. This concentration in the west means reefs along the edge of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable, with currents apparently forcing FADs towards these coasts more than other countries in the region.
Overall, our studies estimate that between 1,500 and 2,200 FADs drifting through the Western and Central Pacific Ocean wash up on beaches each year. This is likely to be an underestimate, as the tracking devices on many FADs are remotely deactivated as they leave fishing zones.
Using computer simulations, we also found that a significant number of FADs are deployed in the eastern Pacific Ocean, left to drift so they have time to aggregate tuna, and subsequently fished on in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. This complicates matters as the eastern Pacific is managed by an entirely different fishery Commission with its own set of fisheries management strategies and programmes.
Growing human populations and climate change are increasing pressure on small island nations. FAD fishing is very important to their economic and food security, allowing access to the wealth of the ocean’s abundance.
We need to safeguard these resources, with effective management around the number and location of FAD deployments, more research on their impact on tuna and bycatch populations, the use of biodegradable FADs, or effective recovery programs to remove old FADs from the ocean at the end of their slow journeys across the Pacific.
A three-month prohibition on deploying, servicing or setting on FADs shall be in place between 0001 hours UTC on 1 July and 2359 hours UTC on 30 September each year for all purse seine vessels, tender vessels, and any other vessels operating in support of purse seine vessels fishing in exclusive economic zones and the high seas in the area between 20N and 20S.*
*Members of the PNA may implement the FAD set management measures consistent with the Third Arrangement Implementing the Nauru Agreement of May 2008. Members of the PNA shall provide notification to the Commission of the domestic vessels to which the FAD closure will not apply. That notification shall be provided within 15 days of the arrangement being approved.
The WCFPC has toughened its stance on tuna fishing. It has extended fishing limits, expanded the official observer program, and made tougher rules against bycatch, including the compulsory use of non-entangling FADs.
Tougher rules to protect tuna stocks as well as boost struggling Pacific Island economies were the focus of Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) decisions at its recent annual policy-setting meeting.
The most important measures agreed to at the WCPFC15 meeting in Honolulu in December 2018 are:
setting a target reference point (TRP) for South Pacific albacore tuna, to balance the preservation of fish populations and economic needs
The rule applies to FADs to be deployed in or that will drift into the western and central Pacific Ocean. During discussion at WCPFC15, the European Union reported that it already used non-entangling FADs in other oceans, and that they had no impact on the amount of tuna caught. The WCPFC agreed that, to prevent animals becoming tangled up in FADs, fishing fleets should avoid using mesh if possible. However, if mesh is to be used:
the netting must be less than 7 cm when stretched, whether used on the raft or in the hanging “tail”
if the raft is covered, the mesh is to be wrapped securely so that animals cannot become enmeshed
any mesh used in a tail is to be tightly bundled and secured into “sausages” that are weighted so that the tail hangs straight down in the water column and remains taut.
It recommended a solid canvas sheet as a better option for the tail.
Biodegradable FADs recommended
The WCPFC flagged the introduction of biodegradable FADs, to reduce the amount of plastic rubbish in the ocean and that washes up on reefs and coastlines. The Scientific Committee (SC) and the Technical and Compliance Committee (TCC) are to present suitable designs by 2020.
FAD closure extended
The Commission also increased by two months a year the period in which FADs are banned from use in some areas. They were previously prohibited from 1 July to 30 September by purse seiners operating on the high seas and in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) between 20°N and 20°S. The ban is now extended for an extra two months on the high seas.
Protection zone extended to reduce seabird bycatch
Longline fishing vessels must use several approved measures to reduce the number of seabirds accidentally caught while fishing.
The measures were already in place for the Pacific Ocean south of 30°S. From 1 January 2020, that area will be extended, with vessels fishing between 25°S and 30°S to also use approved measures, although the EEZs of Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Tonga are exempt. The measures allowed are detailed in CMM 2018-03 and summarised in policies and rules on Sustainpacfish.
Seabird bycatch mitigation measures
North of 23oN:
large longline vessels of 24m or longer to use at least 2 mitigation measures, including at least one from Column A
small longline vessels of less than 24m to use at least one measure from Column A.
Between 25oS and 23oN:
longline vessels are encouraged to use at least one of these measures, and preferably more.
Side setting with a bird curtain and weighted branch lines
Night setting with minimum deck lighting
Deep-setting line shooter
Weighted branch lines
Management of offal discharge
The commission also amended the rules to conserve and manage turtles, but failed to agree on new measures for sharks.
Interim target set for catch of South Pacific albacore tuna
Pacific small island developing states cautiously hailed the adoption of limits to the catch of south Pacific albacore tuna. The limit, called a target reference point (TRP), tells fishing nations how many fish can be taken, based on the combined weight of all breeding-age individuals (called “spawning biomass”) of that species.
Catch rules clarified for Pacific bluefin tuna, and limits maintained for tropical tuna
The WCPFC clarified the catch rules for bluefin tuna so that, when a country exceeds its effort and catch limits in one year, the amount extra it has taken is deducted from the catch it is allowed the following year.
The Northern Committee of the WCPFC had argued for a catch-documentation scheme (CDS) to be applied to Pacific bluefin tuna to help bring populations of this depleted species back to sustainable levels. This will be developed as part of the conservation and management measure (CMM) on bluefin tuna. The goal of the CDS is to create a paper trail (physical or electronic) in fisheries to make it much more difficult to sell illegal, unreported or unregulated fish, since they wouldn’t have required documentation.
Despite some pressure to relax catch limits for the main commercial tropical tuna species—bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack—the WCPFC extended current limits for another two years. These three species are worth more than US$4.4 billion a year.
Reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
Last year, the president of the Marshall Islands, Dr Hilda Heine, said: “A five-year target to eliminate IUU fishing by 2023 is bold, but the stakes are too high not to be audacious in the goals we set. If we are serious about combating IUU, we need a tougher mindset.”
Strengthen the observer network and compliance
WCPFC members agreed on several measures to strengthen compliance.
The Commission also expanded the compliance monitoring scheme (CMS), with some reporting information to be made publicly available online, and searchable. Flagging of alleged violations has also been formalised, with deadlines given for countries to address violation notices.
Calls to make work safe for fishing crews and observers
Pacific Islands fishery leaders are said to be content with the results of last weekend’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meeting in Hawaii, US, reports theHerdon Gazette.
Agreements have been made to maintain current tuna catch limits, minimum standards of labor for fishing crews, and increasing the involvement of small island states in the day-to-day business of the WCPFC.
While the US had initially been planning a push to increase its tuna catch quotas, these were ultimately withdrawn, as the tropical tuna measure remains in place.
An additional two-month prohibition on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) by purse seiners on the high seas has been implemented, while limits on the use of FADs for three months from July 1 remain in place.
“FAD closures are an important conservation action that reduces catch of juvenile bigeye and yellowfin tuna,” Ludwig Kumoru, head of the parties to the Nauru agreement, told the Gazette.
“Maintaining the FAD closures is contributing to sustainably managing our tuna stocks.”