LED Lights Reduce Bird Deaths from Fishing by 85 Percent

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Researchers report that illuminating fishing nets with LED lights could reduce the number of seabirds that die from getting caught in nets by more than 85 percent.

Fishing net with LED lights, University of Exeter.
Fishing net with LED lights. Courtesy of ProDelphinus.

Researchers from the University of Exeter compared 114 pairs of gillnets, which are anchored in fixed positions at sea and designed to snare fish by the gills, in fishing waters off the coast of Peru. One net from each pair was illuminated with LEDs placed every 10 m along the gillnet floatline. The other net was the control and was not illuminated.

The control nets caught 39 guanay cormorants — a native diving bird that commonly becomes entangled in nets — compared with 6 cormorants caught by the nets fitted with the LEDs.

A previous study, using the same LED technology, showed that LEDs on nets also reduced the number of sea turtles caught in fishing nets by 64 percent.

Guanay cormorant stuck in a net. University of Exeter.
Guanay cormorant stuck in a net. Courtesy of Andrew F. Johnson.

Researchers believe the lights could offer a cheap, reliable, and durable way to reduce the capture and death of birds and turtles, without reducing the intended catch of fish. They are now working with larger fisheries in Peru and with different colored lights to see if the results can be repeated and applied to other critically endangered species.

“We are very encouraged by the results from this study," researcher Jeffrey Mangel said. "It shows us that we may be able to find cost-effective ways to reduce bycatch of multiple taxa of protected species, and do so while still making it possible for fishers to earn a livelihood.”

The research was published in Royal Society Open Science (doi:10.1098/rsos.180254).

Published: July 2018
Research & TechnologyeducationEuropeLEDsLight SourcesenvironmentUniversity of Exeterendangered speciesfishingbiodiversityenvironmental protectionBiophotonicsBioScan

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