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Marine mammals used as bait with improvised Fish Aggregating Devices in marine waters of Ecuador, Eastern Tropical Pacific

C. a. s. t. A. Cristina, V. a. n. W. Koen, C. á. r. d. Diana, J. o. s. é. A. Juan*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fish aggregating devices, named FADs, are floating objects typically used to attract and capture pelagic fish in industrial tuna fisheries. This study documents nine cases, involving 31 marine mammals of incidentally captured, killed or otherwise retrieved cetaceans and pinnipeds which were used, or presumably so, as bait with improvised Fish Aggregation Devices (IFAD) by artisanal fishers in coastal Ecuador. At least three species of small cetaceans were affected, including pantropical spotted dolphin Stenella attenuata, short-finned pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus, pygmy killer whale Feresa attenuata, and an unidentified small delphinid; besides South American sea lion Otaria byronia, the latter reportedly killed on purpose for this fishing practice. A sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus and a humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae were presumably found floating at sea and opportunistically exploited as FADs. The prevalence of marine mammals used as bait associated with FADs was 80.6% for the South American sea lion (25 sea lions out of 31 marine mammals) and 19.4% for the remaining six cetacean species. This is the first report of baited FADs in Ecuador, the extent of which is still unknown. This fishing technique has not been documented in other nations along the west coast of South America, although baiting of gillnets with marine mammal parts is common in Peru. Without fisheries management and regulation, it could rapidly expand and lead to further directt kills and conservation problems for targeted marine mammal populations in the eastern tropical Pacific. A bottom-up fisheries policy in concert with community-based conservation to ban the use of marine mammals as FAD bait is recommended.