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Fishermen benefit from state FAD program

By Staff | Feb 19, 2015

For generations, Native Hawaiian fishermen have attended ko’a (fishing shrines in the ocean) by placing stones or food in distinct locations to attract fish. Today, modern fish aggregation device (FAD) buoys, anchored in depths between 100 and 2,000 fathoms, are used in Hawaii as an effective method to attract pelagic species targeted by commercial, subsistence and recreational fishermen.

Since 1980, the State of Hawaii FAD program has been maintaining a network of FADs to promote recreational fishing opportunities using Sports Fish Restoration Act funding administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

FADs are popular because they can reduce time searching for fish. Given the current fuel prices, more time catching and less time searching is important.

In recent years, Hawaii fishermen have been deploying private FADs (PFADs) without proper authorization from the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers within state (0-3 nautical miles) and federal (3-200 nautical miles) waters around Hawaii.

The proliferation of PFADs in Hawaii has raised questions, such as what effects, if any, the devices have on the movements or migration patterns of species such as yellowfin and bigeye tuna, what types of fish are attracted to FADs, the rate or duration of retention and the effects on seasonal fish movements.

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council recognizes the potential community benefits of legally permitted and properly located and maintained FADs. In 2006, the council worked with Hana fishermen to establish the first legal community FAD in the state. Observed benefits included enhanced fishing opportunities, increased community fish sharing and voluntary data collection.

The council is currently working with fishermen from Maui on the following community FAD projects: Hana Community FAD 1 (HC1) 20* 37.300’N 155.52.296’W; Maui Community FAD 1 (MFH1) 21* 17.783’N 156.16.650’W; and Maui Community FAD 2 (MFH2) 21* 11.083’N 155.50.008’W.

On Maui, for example, the council is involved in a private-public partnership with Mama’s Fish House to fund the deployment of two FADs (MFH1-2) using permits maintained by the council. Mama’s Fish House is helping the council collect fishing logbooks that fishermen submit on a voluntary basis to the council. Mama’s Fish House, which is a premier restaurant in Hawaii that specializes in locally sourced seafood, recognizes the importance of supporting local fishermen, whom they rely on daily for high-quality, fresh fish.

Council-supported community FADs are public and fishable by everyone. When fishing around FADs, the council encourages best practices be used, such as not tying up to the FAD, not wrapping lines around the FAD and respecting others fishing near the FAD. Further, the council requests that when fishing on a community FAD, a voluntary catch log be submitted to increase understanding of the number of fish caught, size, species composition and fishing effect associated with the FAD.

Council-funded FAD projects typically involve deploying FADs in deeper water than the state FAD program, and utilize different float designs. As opposed to cylindrical spar buoys deployed around the state, council-supported community FADs normally use small boat hulls as floats, which are believed to reduce drag while providing a solid platform for the navigation light and global positioning system beacon. The council is also interested in testing various FAD designs, including the authorization of streamers that fishermen believe make the FADs more productive.

Seven of the 15 State of Hawaii FAD buoys are missing from around Maui County (NL, GG, JJ, SO, LA, MC, N). Except for the N-Buoy, located in 2,000 fathoms between Molokai and Maui, the rest are located south and west off Maui, Kahoolawe and Lanai. This leaves only three buoys (CC, K, HS) still fishable by the charter and recreational boats out of Lahaina and Maalaea, without heading to the Hana (M, FF) or the north shore buoys (HO, Q, DD). These are not easily reachable on an average fishing trip from the West Side. There is the NASA, a federally funded buoy, off the backside of Lanai, to give the West Side boats four buoys to fish. This buoy is maintained on a constant basis.

With no funding available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there is no timeline on when the missing buoys will be redeployed. Five of the buoys have been missing for at least a year. This is hurting the fishermen and businesses that rely on the FADs for their livelihood.