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Characterizing fish communities associated with drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs) in the Western Indian Ocean using underwater visual surveys

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 January 2008

Marc Taquet
IFREMER, CRH, Av. Jean Monnet, BP 171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France
Gorka Sancho
College of Charleston, Grice Marine Laboratory, 205 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA
Laurent Dagorn
IRD, UR Thetis, CRH, Av. Jean Monnet, BP 171, 34203 Sète Cedex, France
Jean-Claude Gaertner
Centre d'Océanologie de Marseille, LMGEM, UMR CNRS 6117, rue de la Batterie des Lions, 13007 Marseille, France
David Itano
University of Hawaii, JIMAR, Pelagic Fisheries Research Program, 1000 Pope Road MSB 312 Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
Riaz Aumeeruddy
Seychelles Fishing Authority, PO Box 449, Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles
Bertrand Wendling
Seychelles Fishing Authority, PO Box 449, Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles
Christophe Peignon
IRD, UR 109 Thetis, PO Box 570, Victoria, Mahe Seychelles
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We adapted a visual census method, mainly used in demersal and reef fish studies, to characterize fish communities associated to drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs) in the Western Indian Ocean. Drifting FAD associated fishes from both equatorial (Seychelles) and tropical waters (Reunion Island) were examined by divers. A total of 32 species (belonging to 16 families) were observed associated with drifting FADs in equatorial waters, and 24 species (14 families) were found around FADs in tropical waters. Twenty species were found in both regions. The highest number of species observed at a single FAD was 18 (12 ± 2, mean±SD) in equatorial and 13 (10 ± 3) in tropical waters, not counting circumnatant species loosely associated with the FAD. Some species like Kyphosus vaigiensis, Canthidermis maculata, Elagatis bipinnulata, Acanthocybium solandri and Coryphaena hippurus were observed on all or most of the surveys. In this study, the contribution in biomass of the 18 common species associated with drifting FADs (but excluding circumnatant species), represents more than 98% of the biomass. The overall biomass values of closely associated species remains well below tuna biomass estimates for circumnatant tuna schools at FADs, estimated as high as 200 tons. The species that most significantly contribute to the by-catch in tuna purse-seines logically match those that showing the highest biomass values in our surveys (Carcharhinus spp., Elagatis bipinnulata, Coryphaena hippurus, Canthidermis maculata, and Acanthocybium solandri). One of the most abundant and ubiquitous species in our study was the spotted oceanic triggerfish Canthidermis maculata that sometimes formed massive schools of many thousands individuals around the drifting FADs. Future research is needed to explore the role of such non tuna species in the attraction and aggregation processes of tuna around drifting FADs.

Research Article
© EDP Sciences, IFREMER, IRD, 2008

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