Fish aggregating devices boat ramp surveys — Summary report 2019–2021
In 2019, the Queensland Government established a fish aggregating devices (FADs) program, as part of the Queensland Sustainable Fisheries Strategy: 2017–2027. The main purpose of the program was to enhance fishing in Queensland and help reduce the fishing pressure on overfished snapper and pearl perch stocks.
To start with, 25 surface FADs were deployed off South East Queensland, from Fraser Island to the Gold Coast:
- 10 in November 2019
- 15 in March 2020.
During the next phase of the program:
- 4 surface FADs were deployed off Weipa in August 2020
- 12 subsurface FADs off South East Queensland in February 2021
- 3 surface FADs off Wide Bay–Burnett in June 2021
- 4 all-water FADs off Bundaberg in October 2021.
An extensive monitoring program was also implemented to assess the effectiveness of the FADs deployed in Queensland.
In addition to Fisheries Queensland’s routine boat ramp survey program, a new targeted FADs survey was developed and conducted at 10 boat ramps in South East Queensland from December 2019 to October 2021 to determine:
- awareness of the FADs program
- recreational fishing activity around the surface FADs
- recreational fisher satisfaction in relation to fishing around the surface FADs.
The survey also aimed to assess if any recreational fishing effort had shifted away from snapper and pearl perch since the introduction of the FADs.
Surface FAD locations (yellow dots) and boat ramps at which FAD surveys were conducted (black dots).
A total of 1,243 interviews of recreational fishers were conducted at the 10 boat ramps between December 2019 and October 2021. No surveys took place for some months during this period due to restrictions and lockdowns associated with COVID-19.
Of the fishers interviewed:
- 69% fished offshore
- of these offshore fishers:
- 24% fished the FADs
- 56% fished for snapper
- 12% fished the FADs and for snapper
- average fishing time at the FADs was 48min
- median fishing time at the FADs was 60 minutes
In 2019, 63% of all fishers interviewed were aware of the FADs. This awareness increased to 81% in 2021, with less than 10% of offshore fishers not aware of the FADs.
Of the FAD fishers:
- 91% were satisfied with the FAD locations—97% of those fishers said they planned to fish the FADs in the future and the remaining 3% did not answer the question
- 51% were satisfied with the available space to fish at the FADs (as a result of other boats fishing the FADs)
- 40% said they would have fished for snapper and pearl perch if the FADs were not there.
The Gold Coast FADs were fished the most (55%), followed by the Brisbane (29%), Sunshine Coast (16%) and Wide Bay FADs (<1%). FAD 1 was fished the most (18.6%), followed by FAD 12s (18.2%), FAD 6 (12%), FAD 7s (8.9%), FAD 3 (7.8%) and FAD 17 (7.4%).
Prior to March 2020, FAD fishers had only fished at one FAD on their fishing trips. From June 2020, 33% fished at multiple FADs on their fishing trips.
Mahi mahi were the most prominent species of fish caught around the FADs, representing 49% of the catch. Other species caught included yellowtail kingfish, wahoo, cobia, black marlin, spotted mackerel, Spanish mackerel, tailor, trevally, venus tuskfish, snapper, pearl perch, unspecified cod species and unspecified shark species.
The results of the targeted FAD boat ramp survey show that nearly half of recreational fishers who fished the South East Queensland surface FADs reported a direct reduction in their snapper and pearl perch fishing.
Overall, recreational fishers were satisfied with the FADs program and planned to fish the FADs in the future. These results are similar to the reported fishing behaviour at the FADs from charter fishing operators.
The presence of demersal species in the catch composition is likely due to some fishers fishing close to the bottom on the reef around the FADs. Catch was recorded within 500m of a FAD. The majority of surface FADs in South East Queensland are deployed on the reef lines to avoid other user groups, particularly the commercial trawl fishery. These reef areas have historically supported catches of demersal fish species.
The number of FAD fishers interviewed was affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns. Not all public access points were sampled and some recreational fishers used private pontoons/ramps and marinas.
As a result of the FAD boat ramp survey, a FADs fishing form was published online in 2021 to improve the recreational fishing data collected at the FADs—in particular, to obtain FAD fishing data from fishers launching from private pontoons/ramps and marinas. Fishers were targeted for participation via fishing clubs, the FADs web page and during routine boat ramp survey interviews.
The routine boat ramp survey program was modified in 2021 to include 2 additional FAD questions at ramps where the FADs can be accessed. These questions will help determine the proportion of offshore trips that fish within 500m of a FAD and the long-term effort and catch trends at the FADs at those ramps.
Find out more about Fisheries Queensland’s boat ramp surveys.