Researchers created a special lighting that can illuminate fishing nets. The add-on can help sea turtles avoid capture and lower the instance of fishermen accidentally catching them.
The team from the University of Exeter believed that the green light emitting diodes (LEDs) can help sea turtles spot the mesh netting and avoid it without disturbing the fish. They tested their prototype off the Peru coast in a controlled experiment.
The fishing nets not fitted with LEDs had 125 green turtles caught in the netting while the lit one only had 62. The numbers of guitarfish caught by the two nets were not affected by the illuminating add-ons.
Each LED light cost about £1.40 ($2). With the illuminating fishing net, the research demonstrated that saving one turtle cost only £24 ($34). This amount can still be reduced if the technology will be used on a much larger scale.
"This is very exciting because 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," said Darwin Initiative research fellow Jeffrey Mangel.
Mangel added that the sea turtle's eastern Pacific populations are one of the most vulnerable in the world. Lowering the sea turtle's bycatch could help in managing and recovering its population in the region.
When the turtles get caught in the fishing nets or lines, it prevents them from reaching the surface for air and end up drowning. According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, more than 250,000 sea turtles are captured, injured or killed accidentally by fishermen in the U.S. The baits often attract the sea turtles that they end up getting caught on the hooks used in catching fish.
"Bycatch is a complex, global issue that threatens the sustainability and resilience of our fishing communities, economies and ocean ecosystems," said assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, Eileen Sobeck.
The experiment was published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series journal and conducted in northern Peru's Sechura Bay. The study was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Lima-based not-for-profit organization ProDelphinus and the Darwin Initiative by the UK Government.