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A study has found that bright light-emitting diodes (LEDs) attached to fishing nets can reduce the number of bycatches or animals accidentally caught by fishing equipment meant for other species.
A group of international scientists drew comparisons among 228 gillnets, which are frequently used to catch fish, in small fishing areas in Peru. The scientists discovered that using LEDs in nets slashed the number of seabird bycatch by 85%. A previous experiment by the same group also revealed that the said technique led to a 64% decrease in sea turtle bycatch.
Bycatches, which constitute 40% of all the world’s catches, are a growing global issue. Being accidentally caught in nets usually causes injuries and even death among animals, thus contributing to the decline in their population.
Although the reason why LEDs in nets can reduce bycatches remains unclear, the researchers believe that the technique can be an easy and cost-effective solution to bycatches. They also emphasized that the technique would not harm the bread and butter of fishermen since the number of the target species collected did not decrease during the experiments.
Nevertheless, the executive director of a US-based animal rights group is skeptical about using LEDs to reduce bycatches. According to Executive Director Todd Steiner, the technique may help reduce the capture of one species but can increase the catch of other species.
On a different note, the researchers are currently investigating if LEDs in nets can be used to protect other endangered species. They are also studying the effects of different colored lights and the viability of using the same technique in larger fisheries.