The University of Exeter and Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus collaborated to study the effect of using nets with LED lights attached to them. Researches found that the number of marine animals unintentionally trapped was reduced by 70% when using the net with lights. The lights act as hazard lights to the intelligent marine life resulting in the reduction in their numbers getting caught.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus hired small fishing boats from three Peruvian ports to conduct the research. Between 2015 and 2018, the researchers used 30-foot illuminated nets in the fishing grounds off the coast of Peru.

After the fishermen come back, the researchers make a note of their catch. From the data collected, they found that the illuminated nets did not affect the number of fishes that were caught. However, turtles, cetaceans, and even birds which ended up as "bycatch" reduced drastically.

Turtle trapped in cocaine
Turtle, cetaceans and birds caught in nets can be reduced by using illuminated nets. US Coast Guard

Jeffrey Mangel, from the University of Exeter and Peruvian NGO ProDelphinus, told The Times that the nets were a low-cost step towards sustainable fishing.

Mangel pointed out that Gillnet fisheries, which are small fisheries in shallow waters face massive bycatch problems. The fishermen end up trapping turtles and dolphins which either end up dead, or end up tearing through the net. All that the fishermen need to do to reduce the conflict is to use the floating lights instead of the corks which keep the net afloat.

Human activities like fishing had managed to put one-third of the world's marine mammal, shark and fish species under the threat of extinction. If the fishermen do not use responsible fishing techniques many threatened species might go extinct soon.

Mangel reported that educating the fishermen to use illuminated nets was not a difficult task. Most fishermen face conflict with bycatch and are willing to make changes to avoid them. The economic burden of shifting from Gillnet fishing with cork floats to illuminated nets is very low. By spreading the news of the illuminated nets and making them available to more fishermen around the world can make a positive switch.

The findings of the study have been published in the Biological Conservation journal.