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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 353:255-264 (2008)  -  DOI:

Drifting fish aggregation devices could act as an ecological trap for tropical tuna species

Jean-Pierre Hallier1, Daniel Gaertner2,*

1Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and Regional Tuna Tagging Project–Indian Ocean (RTTP-IO), c/o Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), PO Box 1011, Victoria, Seychelles
2Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UR 109, Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale, BP 171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Purse seine fishing on fish aggregating devices (FADs) has expanded considerably during the last 15 yr in tropical tuna purse seine fisheries, and FADs currently account for about 70% of their reported tuna catches. The scientific community has expressed concern over the consequences of this fishing practice in terms of yield per recruit and suspected detrimental effects on FAD-associated tunas. To explore possible detrimental effects, we compared stomach fullness, fish plumpness, growth rate, and migration behaviour between free school and drifting FAD-associated tunas for skipjack tuna Katsuwonus pelamis and yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares caught in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Significant differences in fish plumpness and individual growth rates were found, suggesting that individuals associated with drifting FADs were less healthy than those in free schools. Since stomach fullness indicated that tunas associated with FADs eat less than those in free schools, the difference in growth rate and condition could be the consequence of altered feeding patterns. For each species, significant changes in migratory direction and displacement rates were observed in the presence of drifting FADs. These findings support the hypothesis that FADs act as a super-stimulus, misleading tunas to make inappropriate habitat selection. However, further studies are required to investigate the long-term effect of FADs on the entire life cycle of tunas.

KEY WORDS: Ecological trap · Tropical tunas · Fish aggregating devices · FADs · Purse seiners · Stomach fullness · Health indicator · Migratory pattern

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Cite this article as: Hallier J, Gaertner D (2008) Drifting fish aggregation devices could act as an ecological trap for tropical tuna species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 353:255-264.

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