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Catch and Effort

October 2022 –

The Puerto Rico FAD System began in June 2015 with the first deployments of surface fish aggregating devices (FADs) off San Juan, Puerto Rico, off the northeast coast of the island. Last year, four submerged FADs were deployed off the north coast by the Beyond Our Shores Foundation, followed by 22 surface and submerged FADs led by Legada Azul.  Currently, there are 26 FADs in the water from Fajardo to Arecibo.  Information on FAD coordinates can be found at prfadsystem.org/map.  In January 2016, we began a volunteer catch and effort vessel monitoring program to gather information on FAD use and performance and had recruited, at one point, 29 different vessels across the island to participate.  We have been rebuilding participation since Hurricane Maria, which caused several devices to malfunction, vessels to be lost to the storm, and anglers to be displaced.  Currently, ten vessels have re-initiated participation in the program, and we are focused on recruiting more given the value of the data

gathered. This past June was the first month in which all FADs had been deployed and multiple vessels were being monitored.  Since then, we have acquired catch and effort data from 169 fishing trips with four vessels providing sufficient data for catch and effort analyses.  It is important to note that vessel participation in this program has already proved useful in at least one scientific publication on FAD use published in 2018.  As more vessels re-initiate participation or volunteer, the amount of information gathered on FAD use and performance will increase and will ultimately allow for more detailed analyses of FAD catch and effort trends, species seasonality and size trends, and economic impacts the FADs have on vessels in areas where they are or are not deployed.  For example, below are the first size-frequency plots for the top two species harvested among all vessels from June

Mahi Size frequency – June – August

Dolphinfish size (weight in lbs) frequency differentiated by catch association (FAD, nonFAD ) over a 3-month period (June-August 2022).

Yellowfin Tuna Size Frequency – June – August

Yellowfin tuna size (weight in lbs) frequency differentiated by catch association (FAD, nonFAD ) over a 3-month period (June-August 2022).

through August. While three months of data is not enough to draw any conclusions, the reported observations are evidence that our methods are working. Below, we include a 14-week catch matrix of the top four sought after recreational species in the area among all vessels we are monitoring. Check back soon for more updates.


Past Updates

2019 – In order to begin to quantify the impact of FADs on fisheries in Puerto Rico, 20 boat captains agreed to collaborate and provide high resolution catch and GPS data. The GPS data provide time and location, which along with catch allow us to calculate fishing effort as, catch per unit effort on a spatial scale relative to FAD locations. To date, we have collected two years of catch and effort data from participating captains for nearly every outing they embarked upon. The captains represent major charter, recreational, and commercial anglers from around the island. The first captain that agreed to participate was Captain Luis Lagrandier of Puerto Rico Sportfishing Charters, who routinely takes local and international clients fishing aboard his boat Makaira. When we started tracking Makaira’s catch and effort on October 25, 2016, all of the FADs were in place (See Fig 3A upper panel). Preliminary analysis of Makaira’s activity, show that while there was roughly equal catches at the FAD versus away, there was actually more time spent away from the FAD to get that catch, indicating that catch per unit effort is actually higher at the FAD. As the season progressed, FAD E was lost on November 28, 2016, and FAD F was lost on January 17, 2017, and this influenced Makaira to shift fishing effort toward FAD G, the next closest FAD to its home port, Dorado (See Fig 3A lower panel). With FAD E and F not in place, Makaira altered its fishing pattern, increasing both its average time and distance covered per trip. In addition, Makaira’s fishing grounds increased by approximately 106 square kilometers, which meant the vessel trolled a greater area in search of fish. Makaira’s shift toward FAD G, however, did seem to pay off, having caught 4 times more dorado at FAD G than caught elsewhere. Interestingly, Makaira’s catch away from the FAD included a more diverse array of pelagic species, which may be related to the propensity for some species (e.g., dorado) to show high fidelity with the FADs while others do not. Makaira’s case study is one of several compiled by our team and highlights the value of collaborative research to describe FAD-vessel dynamics. Collectively, data indicate that FAD presence can influence catch, effort, and fishing costs.

One of the key management decisions to install FADs in Puerto Rico was to increase sport fishing opportunities and to shift recreational fishing activity from stressed coastal habitats offshore. In order to investigate whether this goal was being met, in January 2017, we began monitoring the catch and effort of vessels that predominantly fish nearshore. Captain Luis Burgos of the Caribbean Fishing Academy (CFA), a predominantly light-tackle nearshore fishing charter that operates in San Juan Bay is the example described here (Fig. 3B). CFA embarked upon 88 trips, with the majority of the outings taking place throughout coastal habitats in and around San Juan Bay. Proximal to the mouth of San Juan bay are FAD C and D, 5.44 and 4.95 miles offshore, respectively. After analysis of 88 trips, 19 of those (or 21.5%) were taken offshore to fish the. While Offshore, CFA caught dorado, billfish, and tuna; while inshore, CFA caught 17 different species but predominantly tarpon, crevalle jack, snook, and guavancha. Because we do not have CFA’s catch and effort before the FADs were installed, we cannot determine if the FADs influenced CFA to move offshore or whether those trips were more successful. Nonetheless, the data and preliminary analysis do show that offshore catch and effort was highest immediately adjacent to FADs, which suggests they provided Captain Burgos with more fishing options and a more diverse array of sport fishing opportunities to his clients.