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DMWR constructs FADs at Marina

reporters@samoanews.com
TJ Letalie and the FAD crew from the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, after constructing 2 deep water Fishing Aggregating Devices last week. [photo courtesy of DMWR]

The Fish Aggregation Program, overseen by the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR), constructed two deep water Fishing Aggregating Devices (FADs) at the DMWR marina in Fagatogo last week.
 
DMWR Director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga said via email last Friday that the construction of the FADs were dependent upon good weather conditions. The FAD program is headed by Tee Jay Letalie, under the guidance of Chief Biologist Dr. Domingo Ochavillo.
 
A FAD is basically a structure composed of a float, a chain, and an anchor, and is usually deployed between 500m to 2000m. Some attractors or aggregators such as coconut leaves are also attached to the float. FADs are constructed and deployed in these deep waters to attract pelagic fishes. DMWR officials explained that in theory, pelagic fish are attracted to a structure in an open ocean environment for shelter and protection from ocean predators.
 
The Fish Aggregating Device (FAD)program was developed under the Fish and Wildlife Service Sports-fish Restoration Grant, to manufacture and deploy these structures that attract pelagic fishes. The goal of the program is to enhance the fisheries livelihood of the villagers and the sports fishermen.
 
So just how beneficial is the program to American Samoa and its people?
 
Data collected by DMWR personnel has shown that these structures (both nearshore and offshore) do in fact attract pelagic fishes like wahoo, barracuda, marlin, masimasi, and albacore. This essentially means that the fishermen don't have to go far out to sea and use too much fuel to get fish to feed their families.
 
The FAD program has been around since 1979, and the funding is derived from the excise tax imposed on sports fishing in the country (excise tax is added to all sports fishing related purchases, including fishing gear, fuel, boats, etc.) and is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service Sports-fish Restoration Grant.
 
At present, there are three offshore or deepwater FADs (800 m to 1700 m) and two nearshore or shallow water FADs (500 m) in American Samoa, while the Manu’a Islands currently has two shallow water FADs deployed near the villages of Tau and Faleasao.
 
An offshore FAD costs between $6,000 and $10,000 each, while a nearshore FAD comes with a price tag of about $2,000. Much of the cost is due to the high cost of hiring a boat to deploy the structures.
 
The FAD program works closely with the villages under the DMWR's Community-Based Fisheries Management Program. The latter program works with villages in developing their own fisheries management plans. The FAD is an incentive for these villages.
 
More information on the Fish Aggregation Program can be obtained by contacting Tee Jay Letalie or Dr. Domingo Ochavillo directly at 633-4456.



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