Appeal launched to find fishing monitor

An environmental charity has called on the public to keep watch for a high-tech device that broke off drifting fishing equipment that washed ashore at the West End.

Part of a floating “fish aggregation device” or FAD, used to catch tuna and other open ocean species, was picked up on Saturday by Keep Bermuda Beautiful volunteers at 9 Beaches in Sandys.

KBB advised in an online post that “the Department of Fisheries would like to locate the monitor for further inspection”.

Alex Davidson of the Bermuda Marine Debris Taskforce, who said he was speaking to The Royal Gazette personally rather than on behalf of the organisation, said the float would have had netting hung from it to attract fish.

“The monitors go with the floats,” he said. “They monitor what’s going on around the device.

“The plastic disc of the float is nondescript, but the monitoring device is a big 12in plastic domed device with a solar panel.”

Mr Davidson said the task force, which was founded in 2011 and includes KBB in its membership, had found several of the FAD monitors adrift or washed up in Bermuda.

The data collected since the FAD was set adrift in the central Atlantic would be valuable to fisheries officials and scientists.

But he said FADs came with a poor environmental record.

“The netting is not to catch fish. It’s to attract fish.

“But the problem is after they dump it, and it washes up here, it becomes a hazard. The net can wrap around the reef or turtles – it’s a nuisance on a huge scale.”

Fishing vessels tracking the devices will home in on the FADs and indiscriminately catch a wide variety of marine life with the tuna and other target species drawn to the floating mass.

Mr Davidson added that many of them got lost along the way.

“It’s hard to put a number on how many of these things are lost every year,” he said.

“But they sell about 50,000 monitors each year. So they are probably losing a lot of FADs.”

The netting has been found stuck on Bermuda’s reefs by divers over the years and Mr Davidson said he had a collection of several broken monitors that had been found in the water or on the shoreline.

Other drifting ocean buoys are used for scientific research, or even for military defence studies.

Mr Davidson said the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency had recently released similar monitoring devices into the Atlantic to collect data on vessels passing within its range.

“From a marine debris perspective, we find things out there that have travelled from all different parts of the globe,” he said. “You name it, you can find it in the water.”

He asked anyone who might have found the device’s monitor to contact KBB at 295-5142.

The Royal Gazette