Seychelles is undertaking its third mission to recover fish aggregating devices (FADs) under the FAD Watch Initiative and the team left on Monday on the Saya De Malha vessel for its latest outing.
The month-long expedition will see members of the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), the Seychelles Coast Guard officers, along with a group of students from the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA) teaming up for the first time.
"This time, the vessel will be out for over four weeks, and will reach Aldabra," said the Minister for Fisheries and Blue Economy, Jean-Francois Ferrari.
He explained that Seychelles faces numerous complaints from both local and international organisations with regard to the dangers that drifting FADs pose and this is why such a mission is so important, to ensure the protection of the marine environment.
Fish aggregating devices are man-made and usually are floating wooden structures with hanging nets to attract fish. These rafts can either be free-floating, known as drifting FADs, or anchored to the seabed, known as anchored FADs.
Undersea life and marine creatures including turtles and sharks congregate around FADs and can become entangled in the floating nets attached to FADs.
Ferrari also welcomed the students aboard the Saya De Malha and said that this exercise was made for them and they will be able to see firsthand the work being done to protect the ocean.
"We also have aboard a lecturer from the SMA (Seychelles Maritime Academy), who will be able to come back and pass on what he learns to the other students at the academy," he added.
He highlighted the growing opportunity that this expedition offers students from the SMA and how the experience being offered to the youths fosters their passion for marine conservation and helps build the next generation of maritime professionals.
"Building on the success of previous drifting FAD recovery campaigns by Saya De Malha, our partners have committed to making this first campaign under the new FAD Watch initiative even more effective through the use of a new FAD-tracking software called OceanTrack," said chief executive of the Seychelles Fishing Authority, Jan Robinson.
"Fishing vessel owners supply SFA with online software and satellite tracking data for FADs that enter coastal zones around 15 of Seychelles' islands, which are then classified by the software as a drift or stranded," he added.
The mission to recover the FADs is part of an agreement signed recently, between the SFA, the Sustainable Indian Ocean Tuna Initiative (SIOTI), and the Spanish Association of Tuna Freezers (AGAC). It provides for a two-year engagement to support the Seychelles' efforts in both intercepting FADs that run the risk of becoming stranded in shallow marine habitats and recovering FADs that are stranded.
"The next step for us at SFA is to start working more with local NGOs because we can't expect just one vessel to address this issue, so we want to work more closely with other partners in the next phase of the project," said Robinson.
At the moment, recovered FADs are being kept in storage, but Robinson said that depending on what state they are in, they can be reused. He added that SFA wants to also have a full system where the FADs can be recovered and recycled in the future.
"There are efforts in the industry to move to the use of biodegradable FADs, with having already been delivered and will be piloted to see how they work," Robinson explained.
The Saya De Malha expedition left on November 13, with a crew of 20 people and will focus on the Seychelles' southern atolls, including Providence, Cerf, Cosmoledo, and Aldabra. It will return on December 11.
Source: Seychelles News Agency