It is estimated that commercial fishermen catch as much as 8.4 billion pounds of fish each year for harvest.
Along with that, billions of tons of what is called “bycatch” are also netted, and when sorted out, these fish and animals are either already dead or are dying.
This bycatch can be whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and birds, many of which are endangered species.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed each year in nets, along with 250,000 endangered loggerhead turtles, and upwards of 300,000 seabirds.
Now, scientists are looking at a relatively low-cost technology to help attract the right fish and repel the bycatch.
Researchers from Arizona State University have developed a series of LED lights that are attached to the gill nets used by commercial fishermen with astounding results.
This simple addition reduced the bycatch by 63% while not affecting the number and weight of the target fish that they were aiming for.
The results extended far beyond the endangered sea turtles, dolphins, and whales.
95% fewer sharks avoided the nets with lights, with an additional 81% reduction in unwanted squid, and nearly 50% fewer unwanted fish.
As an added benefit, fishermen using the lighted net experienced a 75% reduction in the time it takes to bring the nets in because they wasted less time separating out the bycatch.
Hoyt Peckham, co-author of the study, said, “Emerging technologies should help us incorporate this kind of lighting into gillnet materials so that adopting this solution will become a no-brainer for fishers.”