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‘FAD free tuna’ is tuna caught without a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD). Fishing with FADs can sometimes increase the likelihood of bycatch. However, if managed well FADs can increase the efficiency of fishing and be deemed sustainable.

What is a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD)?

A Fish Aggregation Device (FAD) is a floating object that casts a shadow into the water to attract groupings of fish. By casting their nets and fishing rods near these floating objects, fishers can increase their catches with less effort. This can, however, result in a higher level of bycatch.

FADs can be classified as entangling and non-entangling. Traditionally FADs were produced using nets or meshed materials. These nets could accidentally trap species such as sharks and turtles. Non-entangling FADs use ropes or nets rolled up to avoid entangling marine fauna. 

How are FADs used in fishing?

There are different types of FADs such as drifting FADs that float in the sea (dFAD) and anchored FADs (aFAD) that are anchored to the seabed. The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) defines a dFAD as being equipped with instrumented buoys for the purpose of aggregating species of tuna. Buoys are clearly marked with a reference number allowing its identification and equipped with a satellite tracking system to monitor its position. Some FADs are even equipped with sonar which let fishers know when and where to fish and can even identify the species of fish underneath.

Some fishers use natural objects, such as tree trunks floating in the water or the presence of large marine animals that fish like to gather around. This is referred to as ‘natural-associated’ or ‘object-associated’ fishing.

An image of an anchored Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) and a drifting FAD, used for ocean fishing.

On the left is an anchored FAD (aFAD) and on the right is a drifting FAD (dFAD).

Can tuna fishing with FADs be sustainable?

Fishing activity that use FADs can be deemed sustainable where the use is well managed. To be certified sustainable to the MSC Fisheries Standard, fishing managers must demonstrate that the impact of their fishing activity does not damage the marine ecosystem and populations of fish. This fishing activity is assessed by a team of scientists. If the fishery is certified, annual surveillance audits check to see if the fishing activity is still sustainable. If not, the certificate is suspended and seafood from that source can no longer be sold using the blue fish tick label.

Read more about why ‘FAD’ does not always mean ‘bad’.

Should I only eat FAD free tuna fish?

Sustainable seafood can be caught using a variety of fishing methods and gear types, including the use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). The fishing method used is just one factor when considering the environmental impact of fishing activity. Increasingly consumers are looking for claims to be independently verified. When looking at claims of FAD free fish, be sure it comes from a trusted source, that the claim is independently verified and that the fish can be traced back to its source.

To be sure you’re purchasing sustainable seafood look for the blue fish tick.Choose sustainable seafood with the blue fish tick

Find out more

What is sustainable fishing?

What is sustainable fishing?

Sustainable fishing means leaving enough fish in the ocean, respecting habitats and ensuring people who depend on fishing can maintain their livelihoods.

What is the MSC blue fish tick label?

What is the MSC blue fish tick label?

The MSC blue fish tick label is only applied to wild fish or seafood from fisheries certified to the MSC standard, a scientific measure of sustainable fishing.