Biodegradable fish aggregating devices (bio-FADs) are made with natural materials like bamboo and cotton. In contrast, traditional FADs are constructed of plastic and other materials that can persist in and pollute the oceans.

We’re working with fishers, fellow scientists, and the seafood industry to find the best bio-FAD natural materials and non-entangling designs to meet fisher needs while protecting marine life. ISSF has partnered with FAO GEF Common Oceans Tuna Project on bio-FAD research projects.

Defining “Biodegradable”

The term “biodegradable” is applied to a material or substance that is subject to a chemical process during which microorganisms in the environment convert materials into natural substances — such as water, carbon dioxide, and decomposed organic matter — that are non-toxic for the marine environment.

The time required for biodegradation of different materials varies. 

OUR CONTRIBUTIONS

Fisher & RFMO Outreach

To promote universal adoption of non-entangling, bio-FADs in tuna fisheries, we engage with skippers, vessel owners, and other sustainable-fishing stakeholders.

Our outreach to fishers includes hands-on workshops at major ports with ISSF scientists, conceptualizing bio-FAD designs and discussing FAD management challenges and solutions. We have created videos highlighting some of these workshops and published reports about them. We also offer educational videos, guidebooks, posters, and other resources for skippers.

Through ISSF publications and events, we also share bio-FAD research findings and policy recommendations with RFMOs and other fisheries managers.

Bio-FAD Designs

ISSF has been testing various organic materials and designs for biodegradable FADs, which can help to reduce marine debris and beaching as well as ghost fishing.

We have researched biodegradable materials for FAD rafts and ropes, for example, that can meet fishers’ needs but are less harmful in the ocean than man-made materials. 

With input from workshop participants, our scientists also have identified modifications to FAD structures and size that may further reduce their ecosystem impacts.

Physical oceanographers also have collaborated with us — on a new, smaller type of bio-FAD, the jelly-FAD, that we are piloting.

Bio-FAD Testing

New bio-FAD designs are scientifically tested and validated before they can be recommended to tuna fleets for adoption.

ISSF is conducting scientific trials of bio-FAD prototypes under controlled as well as real fishing conditions. We have deployed bio-FADs around the world — in cooperation with commercial fishing fleets and partner organizations — to evaluate the performance of different FAD structures and organic materials.

Fleets in three tropical oceans are now testing bio-FAD designs and collecting data from these experiments for scientific analysis.

BIO-FAD WORKSHOP VIDEOS

Western Pacific Workshop

Senegal Workshop

Ghana Workshop

RELATED PUBLICATIONS

Jelly FADs

ISSF Scientist Dr. Gala Moreno blogs about her research on  “jelly-FADs,” a type of biodegradable FAD co-designed with physical oceanographers.

Jelly-FADs are made of organic materials and drift slowly, like jellyfish. Since ocean currents are less likely to carry them too far afield, they may have less impact on the marine environment if they are lost or abandoned by fishers.

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