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Differential Use of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) by Recreational, Charter, and Commercial Sectors as determined through Vessel Fishing Trip Histories around Puerto Rico


Wessley Merten1, Roberto Rivera2, Richard Appeldoorn3,


1 FAD Research Program, Beyond Our Shores, Inc. PO Box 3506, Newport, RI 02840

2 College of Business, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 9000, Mayagüez, PR 00681, USA

3 Department of Marine Sciences, University of Puerto Rico, PO Box 9000, Mayagüez, PR 00681


Wessley Merten

Beyond Our Shores, Inc.

PO BOX 3506

Newport, RI, 02840

Corresponding author:




            Open access moored fish aggregating devices (MFADs) have been consistently deployed by the Government of Puerto Rico since 2015 yet quantitative data on MFAD use and catch among recreational, charter, and commercial fishing sectors are lacking.  Beginning in 2016, vessel tracking systems (VTS) were installed voluntarily on 25 vessels around Puerto Rico to gather daily fishing trip data.  Following each trip, each vessel was surveyed to gather daily catch and trip related data.  To date, 1,659 fishing trips have been logged between recreational, charter, and commercial fishing sectors with 75% from vessels operating near FADs (< 32 km).  Individual vessel fishing trip histories provide detailed accounts of how vessel captains fish in the presence and absence of MFADs and lend insight into different dynamics between vessels and sectors as well as how geomorphology, seasonality, and weather may influence fishing patterns.  Individual offshore charter vessels exhibit different fishing patterns when fishing near MFADs with multiple charters shifting fishing activity in response to the loss of MFADs nearest their port (< 8 km).  Light-tackle nearshore charters shifted activity (up to 20.6% of charter days) from nearshore to offshore habitats when MFADs were near their port.  While offshore one vessel caught dolphinfish and various billfish and tuna species; while inshore, 17 different species were caught but predominately tarpon, crevalle jack, and snook.  Commercial vessels routinely visited the MFADs and exhibited seasonal changes in fishing methods to target other species away from the MFADs such as snappers.  One commercial vessel frequently used live bait methods to target pelagic fish species at the MFADs while another preferred trolling ballyhoo.  During some outings, commercial vessels targeted pelagic species at the MFADs, then shifted effort away and switched fishing methods to target demersal species.  Monitored recreational vessels infrequently visited the MFADs with one vessel only traveling 31.2 km to fish a FAD once, despite having logged 137 offshore fishing trips.  In the case of this vessel, and others monitored in the absence of MFADs, fishing trip histories set a baseline for comparative studies to assess changes in fishing dynamics in terms of catch, total distance covered, and time on the water as MFADs are deployed in their areas.  These are key metrics that can be used to assess how MFADs influence fishing activity over different temporal and spatial scales, their impact on fishing trip catch, and performance as a fisheries management tool to increase fishing opportunities, catch, and shift fishing activity away from demersal and nearshore species toward pelagic species.  Vessel fishing trip histories provide quantitative data to help guide MFAD management for a more sustainable network and placement of MFADs around Puerto Rico.           


Keyword:  Fish Aggregating Devices; vessel trip histories; small scale fisheries; fishing effort; Caribbean Sea