In fashion, a fad is known as a short-lived craze, but in the marine environment, fish aggregating devices (FADs) can cause long-term harm when unregulated, or in cases where the FAD breaks free and drifts in the ocean.
Three FADs were retrieved off the Australian coast in recent weeks, suspected of drifting in from waters further north, in a collaborative effort by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).
FADs are man-made objects used to attract ocean-going pelagic fish in order to increase the efficiency of catching fish. FADs usually consist of buoys or floats, and are tethered to the ocean floor with concrete blocks, however they are known to break free from these tethers and are often picked up by oceanic currents and can travel large distances. Drifting FADs are hazards to mariners and contribute to marine pollution.
In addition, some are made of wood, bamboo or other plant material that could have a detrimental effect to the Australian environment should it reach land. FADs collected by AFMA and the ABF are destroyed to minimise the biosecurity risks to Australian agriculture and native fauna and flora.
Keeping Australia’s Commonwealth fisheries sustainable requires healthy oceans, and AFMA contributes to this by working with other Commonwealth agencies in collecting and disposing of FADs located in Australian waters.
It is important to note that the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries regulates FADs for recreational fishing purposes, however FADs are banned from AFMA-managed Commonwealth fisheries.