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Green lights on gillnets help save sea turtles

"This is very exciting because it is an example of something that can work in a small-scale fishery," said researcher Jeffrey Mangel.

By Brooks Hays
Green lights on gillnets help save sea turtles
Gillnetting outfitted with green LEDs. Research proved the green lighting helped sea turtles avoid the netting. Photo by University of Exeter

EXETER, England, March 23 (UPI) -- Every year, thousands of sea turtles are accidentally caught by fishermen -- many of them dead and most of them in gillnetting.

Researchers at the University of Exeter are hopeful that new technology can reduce sea turtle bycatch. A team of scientists there have developed special lighting that, when attached to netting, help sea turtles avoid capture.

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The green light emitting diodes, or LEDs, help sea turtles sea the dangerous mesh netting without alerting targeted fish species.

Researchers tested the technology off the coast of Peru using several dozen pairs of gillnets with one affixed with LEDs, one not. Unlit nets caught 125 green turtles while illuminated nets caught 62 turtles. The netting's guitarfish yield was unaffected by the lights.

"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," Jeffrey Mangel, a Darwin Initiative research fellow in Peru, said in a news release. "These lights are also one of very few options available for reducing turtle bycatch in nets."

The research was published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

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"The turtle populations in the eastern Pacific are among the world's most vulnerable and we are hoping that by reducing bycatch, particularly in gillnets, will help with the management and eventual recovery of these populations," Mangel concluded.

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