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Marine Science



UK marine scientists’ bright idea protects sea turtles. British scientists have come-up with a bright idea that could help save the Mediterranean’s threatened sea turtles.

Every year an estimated 40,000[1] green and loggerhead turtles are killed after being accidently caught in fishing nets throughout the Med.

Now researchers from the University of Exeter and the Society for Protection of Turtles working with fishermen in Cyprus, have shown that illuminating nets using a device called a ‘NetLight’ can significantly reduce the number of turtles getting caught through ‘bycatch’: the incidental capture of non-target species.

NetLight, which was developed by conservation engineers Fishtek Marine, is a small, long lasting, banana-shaped light powered by two AA batteries, that is easily attached to the ropes on fishing nets to alert turtles to the danger.

The trials with Cypriot fishermen have shown that using NetLights reduced the number of sea turtles being trapped by 42%. The results are revealed in a new research paper: “Flashing NetLights reduce bycatch in small-scale fisheries of the Eastern Mediterranean” published in the journal Fisheries Research.

“Around Cyprus, over 2,800 sea turtles die in nets every year,” said Robin Snape a researcher at Bluedot Associates and associate researcher at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Cornwall. “Our trials with local fishermen and NetLight have shown that this can be significantly reduced.”

He added our work has also revealed that NetLights can reduce the bycatch of other threatened species, especially rays, whose numbers fell by 53% when the lights were used. This device has real potential in marine conservation.”

Pete Kibel, co-founder and director of Devon-based Fishtek Marine said:

“These trials have been very encouraging and show that NetLight has an important role in helping protect sea turtles.”

“This is also good news for the local fishermen in Cyprus, as bycatch of turtles can damage their nets and reduce their ability to make a living from fishing.”

Professor Brendan Godley, who leads the Exeter Marine research group, said:

“Working with partners like Fishtek Marine allows us to combine Exeter’s expertise in marine research with their brilliant engineering, to address major challenges such as bycatch.

Fishtek is currently in the process of crowdfunding £1 million with Triodos Bank to invest in developing its range of bycatch prevention and smart fishing technologies.

About Fishtek Marine:

Based in Totnes Devon, UK, Fishtek Marine is a unique conservation engineering company. The Fishtek Marine team consists of award-winning engineers and fisheries scientists who focus their expertise and energy on developing, engineering, testing, manufacturing, and distributing a range of innovative fishing technologies that facilitate sustainable fishing, reducing bycatch of cetaceans, turtles, seabirds and sharks.

[1] (Carpentieri et al., 2021, Casale, 2011)