Bright lights attached to fishing nets stop birds and turtles dying in them, scientists say

Cheap, effective technique has no effect on quantity of fish caught, and shows promise for preventing needless death of marine creatures

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Wednesday 11 July 2018 00:14
Comments
Guanay cormorant stuck in a net: thousands of seabirds and turtles die after becoming tangled in small-scale Peruvian fishing nets every year
Guanay cormorant stuck in a net: thousands of seabirds and turtles die after becoming tangled in small-scale Peruvian fishing nets every year

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.

Video shows turtles nesting on Mumbai beach for the first time in 20 years

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.

“That’s where it gets interesting, because until now techniques to reduce bycatch usually think about one thing – it makes it easier to find a solution if one thing works for everything.”

As the lights are cheap, reliable and durable, the researchers think this could be an easy way to make a big difference to bycatch numbers.

The research was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

“The catch that fishermen were going for didn’t change when we put the lights on the net – so they caught the same amount of fish, but they didn’t catch any turtles or birds,” said Dr Mangel.

This is essential, as finding ways to protect wildlife while collaborating with local fishermen will be crucial if changes are to made on any significant scale.

“We need to find ways for coastal peoples to fish with the least impact on the rest of the biodiversity in their seas,” agreed Professor Brendan Godley, one of the study’s authors.

The researchers are now working on larger Peruvian fisheries, experimenting with different coloured lights and finding out if the same techniques can be applied to protect more endangered species.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in