Sea turtle bycatch reduced by UV lights on fishing nets

Source: Science for Environment Policy

Every year many marine animals including seabirds, sea turtles and sharks are unintentionally caught as bycatch in commercial fishing gear. Recent research has demonstrated that illuminating fishing nets with ultraviolet (UV) lights can reduce sea turtle bycatch without significantly affecting the number of fish caught or their  market value.

Small-scale coastal gillnet fisheries are widespread and previous studies suggest that  high numbers of sea turtles are trapped as bycatch in such fisheries, hampering efforts to  conserve sea turtle populations. However, many local communities depend on small- scale fisheries and researchers are investigating ways to reduce the bycatch of  marine animals, while at the same time preserving the amount and value of target fish caught.

One promising bycatch reduction technology relies on the differences in vision between sea turtles and many species of fish. Researchers have already found that nets equipped with green light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or chemical lightsticks can reduce catch rates of the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Research has also shown that green loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles are sensitive to UV light, and although some fish species have UV vision, several economically-important fish species do not.

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