Exeter, England – A group of conservation biologists at the University of Exeter have developed a special lighting that attached to fishing nets, dramatically reduced the number of sea turtles getting capture and die.
Dr. Jeffrey Mangel and other conservation biologists at the University of Exeter carried out a study in Sechura Bay in northern Peru. The result showed that illuminated fishing nets used by a small-scale fishery reduced the number of green turtle deaths by 64%. The green light emitting diodes, or LEDs, help sea turtles see the netting without alerting targeted fish species.
The researchers used 114 pairs of nets, each typically around 500-metres in length. In each pair, one of the nets was illuminated with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) placed every ten metres along the gillnet float line. The other net in the pair was the control and not illuminated.
The controlled nets caught 125 green turtles while illuminated nets caught 62. The target catch of guitarfish was unaffected by the net illumination.
Jeffrey Mangel, one of the lead authors of the new study, said the results are very exciting as it is an example of something that can work in a small-scale fishery which for a number of reasons can be very difficult to work with.
“The turtle populations in the eastern Pacific are among the world’s most vulnerable and we are hoping that by reducing bycatch, particularly in gillnets, will help with the management and eventual recovery of these populations,” Mangel concluded, as reported by UPI.
Scientists are now working with larger fisheries in Peru and with different coloured lights to see if the results can be repeated and applied with more critically endangered species.
Bycatching in gillnet fisheries endangers the lives of thousands sea turtles all around the world. Scientists hope this study will help to provide a solution. Professor Brendan Godley said it is exciting to be part of a research that is highlighting innovative methods that may assist the move towards sustainability in these fisheries.
Eileen Sobeck, the assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, says bycatch is a complex, global issue that threatens the sustainability and resilience of our fishing communities, economies and ocean ecosystems. Funding research like this is key to NOAA’s efforts to reduce bycatch.