Illuminating fishing net with battery-powered light-emitting diodes (LED) could save a large number of turtles from dying at the sea, conservation biologists suggest.
Millions of sea turtles have died as by-catch in gillnet fisheries in the past two decades and conversationalists have been trying to find ways to save these reptiles without reducing the intended catch of fish.
Dr Jeffrey Mangel and other conservation biologists at the University of Exeter carried out a study in Sechura Bay in northern Peru and found that illuminated fishing nets used by a small-scale fishery reduced the number of green turtle deaths by 64 percent.
They also found that there was no reduction in the intended fish catch. It was for the first time lighting technology was used in a working fishery.
The LED light they used costs £1.40 ($2) each. If the method is put in use in large scale the cost would be reduced further, the researchers claim.
The researchers used 114 pairs of nets, each typically around 500-metres in length. In each pair, one was illuminated with LED placed every ten metres along the gillnet float line while others were not.
The non-illuminated nets caught 125 green turtles while illuminated nets caught only a half. The illuminated nets also did not affect the target catch of fish.
The conservationists are 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, reported science portal EurekAlert.
The innovative study was published in Marine Ecology Progress Series.
“By-catch is a complex, global issue that threatens the sustainability and resilience of our fishing communities, economies and ocean ecosystems,” Eileen Sobeck, US’s assistant National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator for fisheries was quoted as saying.