FishWise and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) release a new report on FAD-free Tuna Verification Best Practices

Created on Friday, 23 March 2018

Increasing demand for tuna products claiming to be harvested without the use of fish aggregated devices (i.e. FAD-free) has resulted in the need for additional verification measures within purse seine tuna supply chains. In response, FishWise and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) have developed a new resource to provide best practice recommendations for companies making FAD-free harvest claims on tuna products. Although this report focuses specifically on defining mechanisms for verifying purse seine FAD-free tuna claims, other challenges faced by FAD and FAD-free fisheries are also in need of collaborative solutions. This resource highlights an important part of the larger FAD management dialogue.

What’s the deal with FADs?

For hundreds to thousands of years, fishers have found productive fishing grounds for pelagic species around naturally occurring FADs like logs, whale sharks, seaweed patches, etc. However, due to their effectiveness in attracting desirable pelagic species, it has become increasingly common to create and deploy FADs made from human-made materials like PVC pipe and netting. In fact, this fishing method now comprises upwards of 40 percent of annual global tuna catches. Fishing on FADs is an efficient method to target tuna, but it comes with its own slew of management challenges and environmental impacts, including the unintended capture of non-target species. FAD-free harvest can reduce purse seine bycatch of some species making it a desirable sourcing solution for companies attempting to progress in their sustainable sourcing commitments.

This report does not aim to advocate for or against the use of FADs, but rather help seafood stakeholders understand the gaps in current verification practices and how best to verify claims of FAD-free caught tuna. Key highlights include: current practices in place for verifying FAD-free products, gaps in the process, and specific actions stakeholders can take to implement best practice measures and ensure credibility when making purse seine FAD-free tuna claims.

Some of these specific actions are listed below as five recommendations that companies are encouraged to adopt when making FAD-free harvest claims. Detailed justification and current challenges associated with these recommendations are included in the report. They will need to be revisited over time to account for technological shifts, changes in fisheries management, and (hopefully) adoption of standardized FAD terminology.

Recommendation 1 – Outfit vessels with electronic monitoring systems and review footage to verify FAD-free harvest and proper handling

Recommendation 2 – Implement robust and auditable traceability protocols

Recommendation 3 – Conduct third-party audits

Recommendation 4 – Make FAD-free verification methods public

Recommendation 5 – Observers should not be used to verify FAD-free tuna claims for supply chains (FishWise and World Wildlife Fund have collaborated on another report outlining the Policies and Recommendations to Improve the Safety of Fisheries Observers Deployed in Tuna Fisheries)

One crucial next step towards implementing these recommendations is standardizing terminology used for FAD-free verification across Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to improve data collection and overall FAD management. Collaboration among stakeholders is essential to successfully adopt these best practices and support the overall strengthening of FAD management to control pressure on tuna stocks.

There is a continued need, across fisheries and gear types, for improvements in tuna traceability. We hope that the actionable steps outlined in this resource are helpful for seafood industry stakeholders and NGOs to advocate for these improvements and continue the discussion on FAD-free verification.