FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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FAO project supports FAD programme in Palau

Checking installed FAD in Palau
01/12/2020 Koror, Palau

FAO supports recent efforts in Palau to ensure the nation has a strong and sustainable fish aggregating device (FAD) programme. Through the FishFAD project these efforts build on Palau’s longstanding experience in FAD deployments and training in FAD fishing, which were often led by master fishermen with the Pacific Community Nearshore Fisheries Development Section. Over time, the programme has contracted with other organizations and projects, such as FishFAD, to assist with FAD development.

In October 2020, the Palau International Coral Reef Center co-authored a study on the behaviour and movement of yellowfin tuna on anchored FADs in Palau, was published in the Fisheries Research journal. The study used sonic receivers mounted below FADs that detect the individual transmission of acoustic tags implanted in wild-caught tuna. This approach allowed researchers to monitor the tuna for their movement and FAD association as the fish moved between the receiver-equipped FADs. The study found that yellowfin tuna showed a clear preference for offshore FADs located in clear ocean waters. The research noted there is a challenge in choosing FAD locations that are attractive to tuna and have a high likelihood of remaining on station, as well as relatively close to shore and accessible to local fishing communities.

These findings are informing the work of the Bureau of Marine Resources (BMR) in developing and administering the national FAD programme, which is conducted in collaboration with and support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and FishFAD. Palau’s historical knowledge of past FAD deployments is also informing the programme.

These programmatic efforts are implemented under the Palau Nationwide Anchored FAD Program Strategic Plan 2018-2023, which BMR developed with technical assistance from TNC. The plan is a key milestone to ensure the national FAD programme is sustainable and will increase FADs’ potential to address food security concerns and enhance the livelihoods of communities that depend on marine and coastal resources.

For additional FAD initiatives, collaborating with key actors, such as FishFAD, and other ongoing projects will help procure FAD materials and equipment for the requested deepwater FADs. This is important as thorough and careful pre-deployment echo sounder surveys, which determine the bottom type and structure, are essential to promote FAD longevity and proper site selection. FishFAD is researching lower-cost material options, where possible.

A site-specific project to develop a community-based pelagic fishery is underway in the State of Airai. Airai fishermen are leading this initiative. They are organized under the Belias Fishers Cooperative with sponsorship from TNC and funding from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. FishFAD and other projects will co-sponsor a fishers training covering various FAD-specific fishing techniques, fish handling and safety at sea. BMR will facilitate the training, which is planned for late 2020. Local partners and their expertise will develop and implement the training, given Palau’s significant historical experience in FAD development. This is especially beneficial as outside trainers will not be able to attend, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. FishFAD will contribute materials and gear for the training and attend virtually to enhance the pool of knowledge available to trainees.

Under the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism’s FAD programme—which FishFAD, TNC and other partners support—these developments are shifting Palau’s focus to abundant, fast-growing and offshore tuna species instead of sensitive coastal resources, such as seafood from coral reefs and lagoons. Of the FishFAD project’s four focus areas, this work addresses the first component: strengthening and developing community nearshore FAD programmes to provide improved access to high-value species.

Enhancing livelihoods and food security through fisheries with nearshore fish aggregating devices in the Pacific Ocean (FishFAD) – is a three-year project implemented by FAO and funded by the Government of Japan