Pacific sea turtles appear to be smart enough to avoid gillnets if the nets are marked with a series of cheap light-emitting diodes.
Researchers at the University of Exeter have reported that putting such lights on gillnets reduced the accidental capture of turtles by 64 percent without reducing the intended catch.
The researchers carried out their experiment in a bay in Perú, a country whose fishing fleet kills many green, olive ridley and hawksbill, loggerhead and leatherback turtles in 100,000 kilometers of nets each year, said the university.
Gillnets have holes big enough for fish to insert their head but not their body. As the fish try to withdraw their head, the nets snag the gills.
Turtles also are big enough to damage the nets, and those doing the fishing would prefer to avoid them.
The researchers said that the cost of the lights, about $2 apiece, were cheap when compared to the life of a turtle. They said they would experiment with different colors and arrangements.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ProDelphinus in Perú and the United Kingdom government’s Darwin Initiative supported the measure.