Cheap, effective technique has no effect on quantity of fish caught, and shows promise for preventing needless death of marine creatures
Simply attaching bright LED lights to fishing nets has the power to ward off turtles and seabirds that would otherwise become trapped in them and die.
Bycatch – animals like turtles, birds and dolphins becoming unintentionally caught in nets – has become a major international problem.
Research has shown that fishermen in just a handful of small-scale fisheries in South America kill thousands of turtles every year in this manner, and scientists have been desperately searching for ways to stop this slaughter without disrupting people’s livelihoods.
The new work builds on previous techniques pioneered by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that were found to reduce sea turtle bycatch.
Looking to replicate the success of these trials elsewhere, Dr Jeffrey Mangel from the University of Exeter tested these nets in small fishing operations in Peru.
They found that not only did it cut turtle bycatch by around two thirds, it had another happy outcome as well.
“We started to look at the data in more detail and we realised it looked like the bycatch of seabids was also going down,” Dr Mangel told The Independent.
In total, nets fitted with LEDs caught 85 per cent fewer guanay cormorants – native diving birds that often find their way into nets – compared to those without lights. The Independent