Offshore Focus: Fish Attracting Devices (FADs)

Sport and commercial fisherman are always on the lookout for ways to maximize their catch. One innovation that has significantly transformed the fishing industry is Fish Attracting Devices (FADs). These devices have revolutionized the industry and are now used around the world for both commercial and recreational fishing. 


What are FADs?

Fish Attracting Devices, commonly known as FADs, are man-made structures deployed in the ocean to attract schools of fish. Their primary function is to increase the catch rate for commercial fishing vessels and to facilitate recreational fishing. FADs come in various shapes and sizes, from simple buoys with floating ropes to more sophisticated structures equipped with sonar and GPS technology which allow fisherman to know if fish are congregating on these structures. 

FAD Example |  Image Source: NOAA


How FADs Work

The fundamental concept behind FADs is to mimic the conditions that naturally attract fish to a specific area. FADs provide a structure for fish to seek shelter, find food, and reproduce. They create an artificial ecosystem by aggregating various marine species, which in turn attracts larger predatory fish, making it an ideal fishing location. Some FADs even release small amounts of bait or fish feed to entice fish further.


Commercial And Recreational Benefits

For commercial fishing vessels, FADs considerably reduce the time and effort required to locate fish. Traditional fishing methods involved scouting for schools of fish, often leading to unpredictable results and wasted fuel. With FADs in place, fishing vessels can concentrate their efforts on the known locations, resulting in higher catch rates and reduced operational costs. 

Similarly, FADs have contributed to enhancing recreational fishing experiences. Anglers and sports fishers benefit from increased fish populations in FAD-rich areas, making it more likely to have successful fishing trips. This benefits both anglers and captains as a near guaranteed hookup makes for happy clients and great reviews.


In 2015-2019, 38% of total tropical tuna catch was made with FADS. Source.


FAD Regulations And Environmental Concerns

While FADs have undoubtedly revolutionized fishing practices, they have also sparked some environmental concerns. The intensified concentration of fish around FADs can potentially disrupt natural fish migration patterns and cause overfishing in localized areas. This imbalance can have adverse effects on marine ecosystems, leading to declines in fish populations, changes in species composition, and potential disruptions to the food chain.

There is also the construction and deployment of FADs may contribute to ocean pollution, as some devices are made of non-biodegradable materials and may be abandoned after a period of time. Regulatory bodies are currently working on guidelines and restrictions to promote responsible fishing practices and ways to mitigate any negative environmental impact of FADs.


The Future Of FADs

While FADs have proven themselves as a reliable and effective way to attract fish, they will require ongoing research and adjusted regulations. Through collaboration between fishing communities, researchers, and conservationists, the future of FADs will continue with a focus on exploring alternative materials, implementing smart technologies that monitor fish populations around FADs, and establishing marine protected areas to preserve natural fish habitats.