December 10, 2020

Our groundbreaking new publication on tuna FADs

Stacy Hall


Contact:  Guillermo Gomez, Gomez-Hall Associates 


Research Shows Canned Tuna Linked to IUU Fishing Practices and Offers Path to Sustainability for FAD-Based Tuna Fisheries 

Seattle, Washington: A new research paper, The IUU Nature of FADs: Implications for Tuna Management and Markets, published for the first time in the journal Coastal Management, establishes a critical link between canned tuna – which is commonly fished with the aid of hundreds of thousands of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) drifting in the ocean – and the legal and marketing concept of Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The article documents how a transparent registration and tracking process can better align market and regulatory forces to reduce unsustainable FAD practices. The analysis has major implications for the future of the global tuna industry that annually delivers over 4.8 million metric tons of raw tropical tunas to supply the 25-billion-dollar canned tuna retail market, and for consumers who rely on canned tuna as a convenient market staple. 

As much as 89% of the world’s tropical tunas for canning are caught in association with FADs, which are man-made devices that include an attached satellite buoy and echosounder.  These are “planted” in the water by purse seine fishing vessels and left to drift around the world’s oceans, efficiently attracting fish and communicating their location to fishing vessel operators via their satellite buoys. Unfortunately, FADs attract not only mature tunas, but also juveniles and non-tuna species, including substantial numbers of threatened and endangered species such as sharks and turtles that end up as incidental bycatch. Lost and abandoned FADs also persist in the ocean for years, “ghost fishing,” damaging coral reefs, and causing marine pollution.  Even so-called “FAD-free” tuna may not be truly independent of nearby FADs.  And since FAD ownership is not clearly identified or tracked, no one is held responsible for mitigating their adverse ecological impacts.

“The global tuna industry, which is critical for delivering affordable protein to consumers, may not be able to survive without FADs, but the current use of these devices is not sustainable and, in many cases, should be considered illegal, unreported, or unregulated,” says Guillermo Gomez, President and founder of Gomez-Hall Associates. “We propose an innovative way for FAD fishing operations and tuna regulators to move toward sustainability, protecting the fishing resource and oceans.”

The paper proposes a win-win path forward for FAD-based tuna fisheries, including the use of policy tools, technology, and new standards.

  • This would be based on establishing FAD registries with a transparent, high-tech FAD tracking system.
  • Retailers and consumers could be confident that canned tuna in the marketplace is truly sustainable, not IUU.
  • Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs) and coastal/island nations would enjoy new revenue streams and be able to more effectively manage their tuna resources.
  • Sustainability certifiers like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) would not continue to certify tuna fisheries engaged in IUU FAD activities against its own certification standard and could bring new tuna fisheries into alignment with sustainability principles.

The article The IUU Nature of FADs: Implications for Tuna Management and Markets is available at Coastal Management’s website here: We welcome your comments or questions. Contact us at

About Gomez-Hall Associates

Gomez-Hall Associates is a boutique fisheries consultancy specializing in risk management and sustainability strategies for stakeholders in the world’s tuna fisheries. The company has decades of experience in seafood sustainability, fisheries management, and seafood processing and marketing, for both small-scale and internationally complex industrial fisheries.

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