Aitutaki senior fisheries officer Richard Story led the team of Ministry of Marine Resources and local fishermen onboard the Te Kau barge skippered by George Koteka, to deploy a FAD in 2021. Picture: JUNIOR IOAPA/ 21091207
The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) and the Cook Islands Meteorological Service are working together to employ state-of-the art technology to further their understanding of fisheries and assist with forecasting the weather.
MMR and the Met Service are collaborating with the
Pacific Community (SPC) for the HI-FAD (Highly Instrumented Fish Aggregating
Devices) Project, which includes deploying a variety of monitoring buoys on anchored
fish aggregating devices (FADs) around Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
FADs are used by local small-scale fishermen, and this
project will investigate whether they can also be used as a platform for ocean
monitoring sensors to further assist fishers and improve the forecasting of
ocean conditions, a statement from MMR said.
According to MMR, three types of solar-powered buoys
have been deployed on various FADs, including wave buoys, echo-sounders, and
GPS trackers. All three types are equipped with internal GPS monitors.
Wave buoys are used to provide real-time
or “live” monitoring of wave conditions, which will be used by the
Meteorological Service to improve local and regional ocean and weather
forecasting, as well as providing information to FAD users about the current
weather conditions at that particular FAD.
Echosounder buoys are equipped with an
acoustic sensor that can detect fish underneath the buoy from the surface to a
depth of about 120 metres. Another interesting feature of these buoys is they can
estimate the amount of biomass underneath the FAD, which could give fishermen
an idea of what’s swimming below the surface. These buoys have been
successfully used on drifting FADs, and this project will test whether they can
also work on anchored FADs. This buoy will be deployed at the Panama FAD in
The GPS-tracking buoys are being trialled
as a lower-cost alternative to previous designs. These can be used to locate
FADs and recover them when they break off, reducing economic losses from broken
FADs while also reducing marine pollution.
“MMR asks FAD users to not tie their boats to the
buoys or interfere with their movements. Additionally, if a member of the
public finds a buoy that is detached or damaged, we ask them to please return
it to MMR’s main office in Avarua.”