FADS & Artificial Reefs

State of Hawaii FAD Program

The State of Hawaii has placed Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands. These buoys attract schools of tuna and other important pelagic fishes, such as dolphinfish (Mahimahi), wahoo (Ono), and billfish. FADs allow fishermen to easily locate and catch these species.

This site was initially created by Sea Grant College at the University of Hawaii. It is currently maintained by the Cooperative Administration of FADs Program located at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Please use the frame on the left to navigate through this site.

For more information call or email :

Warren Cortez


The State of Hawaii FAD program is operated by Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (IMB),SOEST, University of Hawaii in cooperation with the State of Hawaii¥s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). The program is directed by Dr. Kim Holland of HIMB. Principle funding for the system is derived from the Dingle-Johnson Federal Funds, disbursed through DAR. The daily management of the FAD system is supervised by Mr. Warren Cortez.

History of the Hawaii State FAD Program

Fishermen in Hawaii and other parts of the world have long known that tunas and other pelagic fishes are attracted to floating objects. Fishermen have benefited from this behavior by fishing aroundfloating logs, nets, debris and other flotsam.

The State of Hawaii has capitalized on this phenomenon by placing Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. In these waters, schools of tunas and other important pelagic fishes such as dolphin fish (Mahimahi), wahoo (Ono), and billfishes can be induced to congregate and remain for periods of time in an area so that fishers can easily locate them. Thus, the FADs are used to "attract" and "hold" pelagic fishes in areas to enhance fishing.

In 1977, the Honolulu Laboratory (Southwest Fisheries Center) of the National Marine Fisheries Service, with funds from the now defunct Pacific Fisheries Development Foundation, installed a few experimental anchored rafts off Oahu, Lanai and West Hawaii. Skipjack tuna (Aku) catches of 5 to 15 tons were frequently reported by pole-and-line aku fishing vessels around these rafts. The Aku fishing vessels also used less then the usual amount of live bait enabling them to make more fishing trips per week. Sport fishers also reported catches averaging 300-700 pounds of skipjack tuna and 200 pounds of mahi-mahi per boat per weekend.

Encouraged by the successful results in Hawaiian waters, the Department of Land & Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, proposed establishing a system of Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) in 1979 to revitalize the fishing industry and increase sportfishing opportunities. The State Legislature appropriated funds for the Department to develop and establish the FAD system.Today, principal funding is derived from the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program.

In 1980, the Division of Aquatic Resources designed, constructed and deployedtwenty-six (26) FADs in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands. The FADs were located 2.4 to 25 miles offshore and in depths of 80 to 1,510 fathoms as recommended by Hawaii ́s fishermen through statewide public meetings.

In 1996, the State FAD program came under the operation of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), SOEST, University of Hawaii in cooperation with the State of Hawaii ́s Division of Aquatic Resources. Currently, there are 55 surface FADs monitored and maintained statewide. Over the last 16 years FAD designs and deployment has been greatly improved to increase the life and effectiveness of the system.

Several major research programs utilize Hawaii's FADs. The results of these experiments are used worldwide to improve resource management and develop sustainable fishing practices.

FAQs – Fish Aggregation Devices

What is a FAD ?

It has long been known that pelagic fishes will aggregate to floating objects like logs, nets, and other debris. However, these objects drift around and may only be occasionally encountered by lucky fishermen. Researchers have found that anchoring a buoy or platform in the open ocean will also attract and hold pelagic fishes, although whether the fish are attracted to the anchored FADs for the same reasons they associate with natural drifting objects is not yet known.

What does a FAD look like ?

Over the last 20 years the State of Hawaii ́s Fish Aggregation Device Program hastested and developed numerous FAD designs to increase their life span and attractiveness to fish. Years of testing have shown that the old adage is true "simple is better!" (see theFADs History. page)

The State of Hawaii ́s Fish Aggregation Device Program utilizes two types of FAD: surface and subsurface. Surface FADs anchored using a catenary mooring method have an average life expectancy of about 3-4 years depending on sea and weather conditions. Subsurface FADs tend to last longer (5-6 years) because of decreased tugging on the mooring line and are less likely to be run over by ships. However, because they are beneath the surface, they also tend to be harder for fishermen to locate.

How do I find the FADs ?

State of Hawaii FADs can be located using the Lat. Long. coordinates or using the compass headings provided from various harbors neighboring FADs. This information can be found on our FAD maps.. These coordinates should NOT be used for navigational purposes.

What types of fishes can be caught around FADs in Hawaii waters ?

FADs have been shown to attract a wide variety of pelagic fish species of commercial and recreational fishing importance. The most commonly caught species include:

skipjack tuna (aku)

yellowfin tuna (ahi)

skipjack tuna (aku)

bigeye tuna (ahi)


dolphin fish (mahimahi)

wahoo (ono)

blue marlin (au)

striped marlin (nairagi)

mako sharks

mako sharks

oceanic whitetip sharks

galapagos sharks

mackerel (opelu)

bonito (kawakawa)

What times of year can certain types of fishes be caught around Hawaii FADs ?

Catch data reported by fishermen fishing around FADs indicate the best times to catch tunas may be between May and August, but billfishes are more frequently caught during September through December. Mahimahi are most common in August through November.

What fishing methods do people use around Hawaii FADs ?

The most popular fishing methods around FADs include trolling, rod and reel (drifting),handline, and live-bait pole and line. However, trolling seems to be the preferred method of fishing and generally accounts for 80% of the catch.

How do I contact the FAD program for more information or to report a missing FAD buoy ?

Please contact Warren Cortez.

email: cortezw@hawaii.edu

phone: 808-848-2939

Hawaii Coordinates & Map

Maui Coordinates & Map

Oahu Coordinates & Map

Kauai Coordinates & Map

Artificial Reefs

Hawaii’s Five (5) Artificial Reefs

Artificial Reef Sites Coordinates

Map of Artificial Reefs (Oahu)

Ewa (Oahu)

Kualoa (Oahu)

Maunalua (Oahu)

Waianae (Maui)

Keawakapu (Maui)

Keawakapu Zoomed (Maui)

Information provided by:
State of Hawaii
Department of Land and Natural Resources
Division of Aquatic Resources

Illustrations provided by:
Division of Aquatic Resources
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Waikiki Aquarium (Les Hata)

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