LED lights could stop turtles and birds from drowning in fishing nets

Sea-Turtle UNEP 2018

(UN Environment, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Alex Gray, Formative Content

Every year, at least 7.3 million tons of marine life end up as bycatch. Sharks, turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds are unintentionally caught in fishing nets, and then usually discarded, dead or dying, back into the water.

It’s a staggering waste of life that damages the marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of fishermen.

But new research may offer a lifeline. Scientists attached lights to fishermen’s nets and found that this significantly reduced turtle and seabird bycatch.

Image: Lucie Machin/University of Exeter

Collateral damage

Ever wondered why canned tuna is labelled “dolphin friendly” or “dolphin safe”? It’s because during the 1960s, there was an outcry over the vast numbers of dolphins killed unintentionally by the tuna fishing industry – an estimated 6 million. As a result, fishing methods changed and dolphin bycatch reduced by 99%.

But sadly, one species of dolphin found only in China’s rivers is now believed to be extinct largely because of local fishing methods.

Image: NOAA Fisheries

Seabirds, such as albatross and cormorants, that dive down into water to catch fish are also at risk of being caught in nets. Every year, around 400,000 seabirds become entangled in gillnets set up to catch fish such as salmon, cod and haddock. The problem is that birds and marine animals can’t see the nets.

It was the plight of these seabirds that motivated a group of scientists to look for a solution by using lights attached to gillnets.

Using lights to reduce bycatch

Previous research shows that putting LED lights on nets can reduce turtle bycatch by 64%. The lights act as a visual warning for the animals, but don’t affect the amount of fish caught in the nets.

A team of international researchers, led by Dr. Jeffrey Mangel from the University of Exeter, reasoned that such a visual cue may also be useful in reducing seabird bycatch, in particular, that of guanay cormorants.

Their experiment took place in the demersal (on or near the bottom of the sea) gillnet fishery of Constante, Peru.

Peru’s gillnet fisheries make up the largest part of the nation’s small-scale fleet. They set 100,000 km of net every year in which thousands of turtles and seabirds die as bycatch.

Image: University of Exeter

For the study, the researchers compared 114 pairs of gillnets, anchored in fixed positions at sea.

The nets were 500 metres in length. In each pair, one was illuminated every 10 metres along the gillnet floatline, and the other wasn’t.

They discovered that the nets fitted with the LEDs caught 85% fewer guanay cormorants compared to those without lights. The control nets caught 39 cormorants, while the illuminated nets caught just six.

The scientists surmised that lighting up the nets made them visible to the birds, allowing them to avoid becoming entangled.

Cost-effective method

Although it was a small-scale study, the results could have major implications.

The fact that the method worked well on two different species – turtles as well as seabirds – means that the adoption of the LED nets could be streamlined and the costs of implementing their use reduced.

Because there are so many coastal fisheries using similar nets, the potential for conservation is huge.

Dr Mangel, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the university’s Penryn Campus, said: “We are very encouraged by the results from this study.

“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 team is 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.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Ukraine: Temperatures plunge amid rising humanitarian needs

FROM THE FIELD: Urban Mexico moves toward better livelihoods, cleaner cities

Why we need to solve our quantum security challenges

MEPs debate EEAS report on disinformation activities related to COVID-19

Wide-ranging reforms needed to ensure Italy’s economic recovery

Carbon neutrality and funds for EU programmes are EP priorities for EU summit

Google’s hot summer never ends: EC to launch ANOTHER antitrust inquiry against the American giant

A new Europe for people, planet and prosperity for all

Should we be worried about third-hand smoke?

This electric plane has flown successfully for 30 minutes – is this the future of flying?

How supporting climate action on a local level can transform the world

MEPs approve €585 million to support refugees from Syria

New rules to help consumers join forces to seek compensation

World ‘not yet on track’ to ensure children a better future: UN rights chief

The global appetite for meat is growing, and it’s harming the planet

Easing ‘classroom crisis’ in Côte d’Ivoire, brick by (plastic) brick

Finland, Switzerland and New Zealand lead the way at teaching skills for the future

Safe spaces offer security and dignity for youth, and help make the world ‘better for all’: Guterres

CO2 emissions on the rise for first time in four years, UN agency warns

Is 2019 the beginning of the end for coal in Europe?

INTERVIEW: UN’s top official in North Korea foresees ‘surge’ in humanitarian aid

Parliament’s interparliamentary delegations established

Can the whole world live in peace?

Coronavirus: 5 ways to work from home with your kids (and stay sane)

5 things you need to know about water

Trump goes ahead with plan to undo globalization; targets China and EU

Coronavirus could trigger a hunger pandemic – unless urgent action is taken

This is where teachers are paid the most

No better year for the EU’s weak chain links

Bring killers of journalists to justice: UN agency seeks media partners for new campaign

Traffic congestion cost the US economy nearly $87 billion in 2018

UN lauds special chemistry of the periodic table, kicking off 150th anniversary celebrations

A Sting Exclusive: “Climate change-the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, yet overlooked in climate negotiations?” IFMSA wonders from COP21 in Paris

How trade tariffs could help combat climate change

Human Rights breaches in Russia, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso

Security Council imposes arms embargo on South Sudan

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European Business Summit 2014 : The Sting Report, Day II – Business, Politics and EBS 2015

Nuclear test ban treaty critical to global collective security – UN chief

Generation Z will outnumber Millennials by 2019

Reforms in Lithuania are reinforcing economic growth but boosting productivity is still a challenge

EU Elections: new rules to prevent breaches of data used to influence elections

‘Violence, atrocities and impunity’ reign throughout Libya, ICC prosecutor tells UN Security Council

Governments must act to help struggling middle class

5 ways companies can support their remote workforce

Worldwide consumer confidence has shot up to its highest level for four years according to a survey of 130 Global Retail leaders

Low quality healthcare is increasing the burden of illness and health costs globally

Robots aren’t stealing all our jobs, says the World Bank’s chief economist

Ireland’s planning to make its Emerald Isle even greener

How the Great Famine inspired Irish people to help Native Americans in the fight against COVID-19

How the inventor of the internet plans to make it safe and accessible for everyone

JADE Spring Meeting 2015- Europe’s Junior Entrepreneurs together for 4 days of networking, workshops and forward thinking

Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets

The different ways of care: Is there a general rule to follow?

UN forum spotlights cities, where struggle for sustainability ‘will be won or lost’

5 key themes for reforming the EU, as elections loom

How to make later life happy, healthy and meaningful

“A Junior Enterprise is run only by students.. there are no professors or managers that can help you solve your problems”

Libya detention centre airstrike could amount to a war crime says UN, as Guterres calls for independent investigation

UN chief calls for ‘green and clean’ development in message for Africa Industrialization Day

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s