FishAct has initiated the removal of illegal Fish Aggregating Devices, better known as FADs, from an area in the Tyrrhenian Sea, approximately 30 miles north of Sicily.

The devices, which are deployed to assist fishermen to attract schools of dolphinfish, are deployed illegally and are creating a hazard for other marine wildlife, including turtles, sharks and sunfish. Over the last two months FishAct ran a series of investigations in the Thyrrenian Sea and identified close to 100 illegal FADs in a relatively small area of sea.

FADs are responsible for high levels of bycatch and readily inflict cruelty on endangered turtles, sharks and sunfish, which are often found entangled in the FADs. Furthermore, the FAD fishing season in the region has expanded over the years and now starts earlier, resulting in high volume catches of smaller juvenile yellowtail. Additionally the FADs are generally left out at sea at the ending of the season, becoming ocean trash and forming a navigational hazard to shipping.

Stefano Rea, who has helped coordinate the work on the FAD issue: “These devices are causing havoc in the seas. They are bad for fish, for many other animals and they enormous amounts of waste. On top of that they are entirely illegal. They might seem small and harmless but indications are there are thousands of them deployed in the region. They simply need to be removed.”

The FADs rely on the need for fish to seek shade under objects in the open sea, creating a safe place for the fish to congregate. Purse seine nets are then used to haul in all the fish in the surrounding area in a single catch. The FAD devices are constructed by attaching palm leaves, tied with fishing line or string, to other floating bodies, such as cans, PVC bottles or old chemical containers. The FADs are anchored to weights on the sea bed by use of fishing lines. EU rules have been implemented to regulate FAD use but none of the FADs located by FishAct were in compliance.

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