Halmos Faculty Explains What Are Floating Up on Our Beaches

Every so often, strange items wash up on our beaches. This one came from West Africa and landed on Palm Beach. Called “fish aggregating devices,” or FADS, the sometimes raft-like structures can get sucked into the North Equatorial Current and travel as far as the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

Often made from refuse such as oil jugs or bamboo sticks lashed together, the curtains of netting dangle beneath them with a reach that can be more than 300 feet deep. They attract large fish that gather for shelter or to feed on small fish and other organisms that grow in this artificially created ecosystem.

Halmos College faculty member David Kerstetter, Ph.D. discussed the situation with the Palm Beach Post. “The presence of these things around the Caribbean is starting to get more attention,” said Kerstetter, “Things like sea turtles can get entangled in them and the other concern when they break free is that all that netting and other material smashes into coral reefs.”

This recent device’s information was collected by Halmos College graduate student Erin Kimak, who is collecting information on where lost FADS are landing as part of the Caribbean FAD Tracking Project. Kerstetter said he hopes to identify which fisheries are losing the most devices to provide more ways to reduce ocean plastics and debris.