FADs and MARPOL / by Francisco Blaha

Last year I wrote about Marine Pollution by Purseiners and Longliners (MARPOL) on an interesting report presented on the 2015 WCPFC TCC (Technical and Compliance Committee) and group of SPREP officers lead by Kelsey Richardson presented a report on the issue. The latest number of PNA Tuna Market Intelligence blog, reports that FADs violate MARPOL Conditions, which is a very interesting twist. I quote them below.

Hand crafted and jelouslly guarded MARPOL

Hand crafted and jelouslly guarded MARPOL

The PNAO presented at the Regional workshop on MARPOL (Marine Pollution) Annex V and Port Reception facilities held in the Marshall Islands, July 17-19, hosted by IMO, SPREP, and RMI. 

The focus of PNAO’s presentation was to address the question: Are the deployment of fish aggregating devices (FADs) a violation of MARPOL (marine pollution) V rules?

The MARPOL Convention was developed by the International Maritime Organization with aim to minimize the amount of all ships’ garbage being discharged into the ocean. 154 countries, the equivalent of 98.7% of the world’s shipping tonnage, are State parties to the convention. 

There are six annexes to MARPOL; Annex V, which addresses garbage, is technically optional, but many parties have signed in agreement with its requirements. 

By 2014 it was estimated there were roughly 50,000 fish aggregated devices deployed in PNA waters. If FADs are deployed, and it seems they are, with no intention to recover them due to loss of both time and fuel costs, then these devices are deployed in breach of MARPOL V. They are, in effect, marine garbage, left to drift in currents, become entangled in reefs, trap and kill marine life, and wash ashore on beaches. 

During the presentation, PNAO pointed out that current available data being quoted in the meeting for marine debris from fishing vessels, is not the full picture; the majority of the data available to SPC and SPREP is coming from PNA observers on about 260 purse seiners in PNA waters where there is 100% observer coverage.

It is worth noting this data represents less than 5% of the actual fishing vessels on the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commissions registry for vessels in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.