Victorian Fish Aggregation Devices

Feasibility Assessment and Concept Design

Recreational Fishing Grants Program Research Report

Project number: RFGP/11/12/13
March 2013

Executive Summary

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Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) are man-made objects that attract ocean going pelagic fish such as tuna and dolphinfish. They usually consist of buoys or floats tethered to the ocean floor. FADs have the potential to hold fish in specific locations and increase the potential for anglers to successfully target them.

Through experience gained from FAD deployments in national and international waters, scientific studies, and angler input, this project aimed to ascertain the feasibility of establishing a FAD network in waters offshore from Victoria. The feasibility study represents the first stage in the development of a new and exciting fishery for Victoria that will be highly valued by fishers from across the state.

The suggested FAD to deploy in waters offshore from Victoria is a simple design consisting of a float, mooring line and anchor. This design enables ease of deployment / retrieval, and has been demonstrated to aggregate pelagic species.

Pelagic species that show aggregative potential in Victoria include:

  • Dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus)
  • Yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi)
  • Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)
  • Striped tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)
  • Albacore (Thunnus alalunga).

Based on population, infrastructure, ease of access and species availability, three locations were found to have greatest potential: Portland, Cape Woolamai, and Mallacoota. A line of five FADs from inshore to offshore locations which are deployed during January and retrieved during May provides greatest coverage and access to aggregating pelagic species.

As FADs are proposed to be deployed in waters up to and extending beyond 3 nautical miles, their presence must meet requirements under both State and Federal legislation.  Consulting with Port Authorities, Australian Hydrographic Service and Seafood Industry Victoria will be required prior to deployment.  Suggested FAD locations may change due to legislative obligations and requirements.

Recreational anglers should be engaged through various media to promote the improved fishing opportunities offered by FADs and how best to use them safely.  Charter fishers could provide the most cost effective monitoring for determining FAD success should a logbook system of recording species, catch and effort be introduced.

It is recommended that an initial trial is conducted at Portland for at least a two year period before FADs for other regions are considered. The cost of the Portland trial in the first year is about $85,000 and about $58,000 for subsequent years. Catch and effort data acquired from a volunteer charter logbook program will be used to ascertain FAD success and whether to extend the FADs trial to include other locations.

This project was co-funded by the Victorian Government using Recreational Fishing Licence fees and the $16M Victorian Government Recreational Fishing Initiative.

Further Information

For a copy of the Full Report please email: richard.rogala@vfa.vic.gov.au