Fish Aggregating Devices - FADs
FADs were first used by indigenous fishermen of the tropical Pacific by floating palm fronds on top of the ocean. FADs of various designs are now used extensively around the world for recreational fisheries enhancement. FADs were trialled by NSW Fisheries (now known as Industry and Investment NSW) in the 1980s, but the cost of deploying and maintaining these large structures was prohibitively high and the program was discontinued.
Original large and expensive FAD design trialled in the 1980’s (image: I&I NSW)
Following introduction of the licence in 2001, the Department began investigating new designs of FADs which would withstand the harsh coastal conditions of eastern Australia. The FADs were the first Recreational Fisheries Enhancement project. A trial of 5 FADs began in 2002 using a much smaller and cheaper FAD design consisting of a large floating buoy anchored to the seafloor, which would provide a dedicated and productive fishing location for recreational fishers. Following the initial success of this pilot program and further refinement of the FAD design, the program was expanded to 10 FADs in 2003. The popularity of the program with fishers led to more FADs being progressively deployed each season offshore from different ports. A total of 25 FADs are currently deployed and maintained by the Department from Tweed Heads in the States north to Eden in the south.
Schooling mahi mahi (dolphinfish) around a Sydney FAD (image: I&I NSW)
Monitoring of the FADs by I&I NSW has shown mahi mahi (also known as dolphinfish) is the most common species found around the FADs, representing 95% of the catch. The species follows the warm waters of the East Australian Current and is a fast growing pelagic fish species. Mahi-mahi are a very popular sport fish with excellent eating qualities. I&I NSW is continuing to monitor the FADs, and this season researchers are using advanced video technology to assess the patterns of use of the devices by mahi mahi and other fish species.
An I&I NSW FAD being fished by a recreational fisher off the Sydney coast (image: I&I NSW)
For more information on this program funded by the Recreational Fishing Trust or to report a lost or damaged FAD please contact the program coordinator at I&I NSW on (02) 9527 8411. Email: fisheries.FADs@industry.nsw.gov.au.
An I&I NSW FAD under strain from the East Australian Current (image: I&I NSW)
A fish’s view of a I&I NSW FAD (image: I&I NSW)