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Biodegradable and non-entangling Fish Aggregating Device. (Photo: AZTI)

Biodegradable FADs to minimize tuna fishing impact on marine ecosystems

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018, 02:00 (GMT + 9)

A European project coordinated by AZTI will test the use of natural biodegradable materials for the construction of BIOFAD (biodegradable and non-entangling Fish Aggregating Devices) in order to propose solutions that minimize the negative impacts that these can generate in marine ecosystems.

This month, the first experimental BIOFAD was set in the Indian Ocean by the European tuna fleet, and the plan is to deploy 1,000 devices built with biodegradable materials in that ocean during 2018-2019."

"We are investigating the use of non-entangling FADs built with natural biodegradable materials which allow fishing to be carried out in a more sustainable way, minimising the impacts on the ecosystem and preventing sensitive species such as sharks and turtles from being entangled", explains Hilario Murua, Sustainable Fisheries Management, AZTI.

Currently, FADs are built with synthetic materials, such as nylon mesh nets with small mesh or set to avoid the gill of sensitive species, which, having a long life cycle, increase the potential negative effects they can generate in the marine environment. The negative impacts that FADs can cause in the marine environment are, among others, their stranding in sensitive areas such as beaches and reefs, and their accumulation in the environment, a growing problem in marine ecosystems.

The BIOFAD project will then design and test new FAD prototypes that are effective for fishing, while being biodegradable and non-polluting for the marine environment, avoiding the gill of any species, especially of sensitive associated species such as turtles and sharks.

The main challenge of the project is to study the efficiency of BIOFADs and the biodegradable materials used, and to compare them with non-entangling synthetic FADs currently used by the fleet. This data, together with a study on the economic impact associated with introducing natural and biodegradable materials to the tuna purse seine industry, will enable the consortium led by AZTI to propose specific BIOFAD prototypes using optimum biodegradable materials.

Therefore, the main objective of the BIOFAD project is to provide scientific and technical advice to the MARE General Directorate of the European Commission in:

  • The use of various designs and biodegradable materials to build non-entangling drifting FADs under actual sea conditions.
  • The identification of options to mitigate the impacts of FADs on the ecosystem.
  • The evaluation of the socioeconomic viability of the use of BIOFADs in purse seine tropical tuna fisheries.
  • The ultimate goal is to significantly reduce the amount of synthetic materials in the construction of FADs and its accumulation in the marine environment, maintaining a balance between the tuna aggregative capability, durability and safety of such devices and preventing negative impacts on the ecosystem.


This project is part of the line of work that the AZTI technological centre, in collaboration with the European tropical tuna purse seine sector, develops to minimize the possible undesired impacts of fishing activity. The collaboration between industry and science is aimed at guaranteeing the long-term sustainability of natural resources through the best exploitation and management practices, based on the best scientific knowledge.

In this sense, the BIOFAD project aims to advance in the search for measures that reduce the negative effects related to the use of FADs.

Along with AZTI, the Spanish Oceanography Institute (IEO), the French National Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), the Seychelles Fisheries Authority (SFA) and the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) participate in the project. In addition, it has the collaboration of freezer tuna fishing vessels committed to sustainable fishing, belonging to the ANABAC, OPAGAC and Orthongel associations.

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