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Lights on fishing nets save turtles and dolphins

That's the conclusion of a study by the University of Exeter.

It showed LED lights along the top of floating gill nets cut the accidental "bycatch" of sea turtles and dolphins by more than two-thirds.

The study looked at small-scale vessels departing from three Peruvian ports between 2015 and 2018.

“Gillnet fisheries often have high bycatch rates of threatened marine species such as sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds,” said lead author Alessandra Bielli, who carried out analyses as part of her masters research.

“This could lead to declines in the populations of these non-target species – yet few solutions to reduce gillnet bycatch have been developed.

“Sensory cues – in this case LED lights – are one way we might alert such species to the presence of fishing gear in the water.”

The researchers placed lights every 10m along the float line of 864 gillnets, pairing each with an unlit net to compare the results.

“The dramatic reduction in bycatch of sea turtles and cetaceans in illuminated nets shows how this simple, relatively low-cost technique could help these species and allow fishers to fish more sustainably. Given the success we have had, we hope other fisheries with bycatch problems will also try illuminating their fishing nets,” said Exeter PhD graduate Dr Jeffrey Mangel, of Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus.

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