LEDs could reduce seabird death toll from fishing by 85 percent

Guanay cormorant stuck in a net. | Credit: Andrew F Johnson

A new research done by the University of Exeter shows that if fishing nets are installed with LED lights, it could help reduce the negative impact that they have on seabirds and other marine organisms by a whopping 85 percent or more.

The team of international researchers was led by by Dr Jeffrey Mangel from the University of Exeter. The team has proved that the number who birds who get caught in the gillnets- can be significantly reduced if we attach green battery powered LEDs to the nets.

Researchers took 114 pairs of gillnets- which are nets that are anchored at specific positions at sea and designed in a way that they can catch fishes by their gills- and compared them to each other in waters off some coasts in Peru.

The team found out that the nets which were installed with LEDs caught 85 percent fewer guanay cormorants- a kind of diving bird native to Peru that frequently gets stuck in the nets- to those compared without LEDs. The research was published yesterday in the Royal Society journal Open Science.

The same team has also, in the past, shown that LEDs also helped reduce the number of turtles getting caught in fishing nets by 64 per cent. Combining the results of both the researches, the team thinks that LEDs are a cheaper and dependable way to drastically lower the death of birds and turtles without affecting the process of catching the fish.

Dr Mangel, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the Penryn Campus of University of Exeter and also the lead author of the study 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.”

Gillnets are employed at a large scale in Peru and thousands of turtles and seabirds are caught unintentionally in the nets. The results of the experiment supported the study- which can now help save a significant amount of Peruvian seabirds- without negatively affecting the commercial fishing industry.

Professor Brendan Godley, co-author of the study and Marine Strategy Lead for the University of Exeter said, “It is satisfying to see the work coming from our Exeter Marine PhDs leading to such positive impact in the world. We need to find ways for coastal peoples to fish with the least impact on the rest of the biodiversity in their seas.”

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