FADs constitute any natural or man-made objects that attract fish to a certain location, such as driftwood, sargassum mats, or buoys. They have been leveraged by fishers for centuries and now play a large and often controversial role in commercial fisheries, contributing to more than half of the tuna catch landed globally.
Bycatch is very common when fishing man-made FADs because of the diversity of species concentrated in mixed schools around one structure. As FADs can attract marine species that would normally travel long distances between feeding, breeding, and birthing grounds, FADs may act as ‘ecological traps’ that disrupt normal fish behavior.
In late 2017, researchers at the Cape Eleuthera Institute deployed two sub-surface FADs at 10m deep anchored in 600m of water to create a platform to study and promote the conservation of pelagic fish and better understand the role of FADs in altering fish movements. Unique in that they are hidden from fishing activity, these FADs can give us an exciting look into the lives of wide- ranging, highly migratory predators such as mahi-mahi and wahoo as well as small baitfish seeking cover in the open ocean.
We are conducting a series of research projects that shed light on the following:
Colonization and Succession
What species use artificial FADs compared to natural FADs in the Exuma Sound? How does biomass accumulate on a FAD and change over time? Do video surveys and side-scan sonar adequately characterize FAD-associated fish assemblages?
What are the migratory pathways of large game fish that use the FADs here? Do the same fish return year after year and are they Bahamian residents, or are they relevant to fisheries elsewhere?
How do recreationally and commercially important fishes use FADs on a fine scale? How do sportfish and sharks overlap or differ in their residence patterns?
For more information, contact Eric Schneider.