Researchers have discovered a simple but extraordinarily effective means of keeping threatened eulachon out of fishing nets trawling for pink shrimp: light up their escape route.
Scientists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife found that LED lights attached to the trawl lines illuminate the escape path under the net, allowing eulachon and other species that enter the net to find their way back out.
Early results indicate that illumination reduces the unintended catch, or bycatch, of eulachon. Of 42 tows, evaluated under a variety of conditions, the new technique demonstrated a 90.4% reduction in eulachon bycatch; while the catch of pink shrimp - the target species - was largely unaffected, reduced by less than 1%. Bycatch of other fish species, including darkblotched rockfish and slender sole, was also significantly reduced.
"Though we're still fine tuning the method," said Bob Hannah of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, "the use of properly placed lights really is showing a remarkable reduction in the catch of eulachon while still retaining shrimp."
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