Skipjack often school around floating objects, including fish aggregating devices (FADs) intentionally placed in the water to attract fish. Foreign purse seiners and baitboats have used FADs extensively in the Atlantic since the early 1990s to catch skipjack, primarily off the coast of West Africa. Researchers have found that the increasing use of FADs has changed the species composition of tuna catches, resulting in a higher capture rate of juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna for vessels targeting skipjack. The increased presence of FADs may also have an impact on the biology and ecology of skipjack, bigeye, and yellowfin tuna. Also, sea turtles and marine mammals can become entangled in nets, ropes, and lines that are used in the FADs.
The total catch of skipjack tuna estimated for 2012 in the entire Atlantic Ocean reached a historic record of 241,000 metric tons, a considerable increase over the average catch of the previous five years (168,000 metric tons). This estimate includes “faux poisson” or “false fish” which are fish not accepted by canneries, usually due to small size or condition, which are then sold to local buyers. Monitoring and official reporting of small tuna sold as “faux poissons” is challenging, but monitoring has improved through a coordinated approach that allows ICCAT to properly account for these catches. This improves the quality of the basic catch and size data available for assessments.