WWF team up with NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to launch LED lit fishing nets to help quash accidental turtle catches.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of turtles are accidently killed as a result of fishing. They can easily become tangled in fishing nets or caught on fishhooks, which can quickly lead to disastrous consequences. Now, WWFs protection efforts for this beautiful species has been aided by John Wang, an ecologist for NOAA.
The Light That Saves Lives
Wang invented an LED illumination device to help turtles recognise fishing nets and avoid getting into trouble. Wang submitted a prototype of his device, which started life as a glow stick, to WWFs International Smart Gear Competition in 2011. The challenge was launched to discover innovative new ideas to help reduce the accidental bycatch of other animals, like turtles, while fishing.
After receiving further funding from WWF, Wang’s prototype evolved into an LED lighting device attached to fishing nets which produces green or ultraviolet light. Mike Osmond, a senior program officer on WWF’s Ocean team, states that “Turtles can see certain wavelengths that a lot of fish species can’t”. Using light wavelengths only perceptible to turtles, Wang’s illumination device helps turtles see and avoid fishing nets, but still allows fish to be caught. Wang released an article along with other NOAA members detailing the positive results projecting ultraviolet light from fishing nets. Test results during field studies in Mexico and Indonesia showed up to a 60% reduction in accidental turtle trappings, as well as an up to 20% increase in the catch of targeted fish.
The Promising Potential
The new LED lighting is having a huge impact on helping turtles stay safe in potentially dangerous fishing zones. And the positive impact of Wang’s invention has potential to grow. WWF and NOAA are now looking into testing the device in Indonesia and the Philippines, known key feeding sights for endangered species, such as the leatherback turtle. With more development, Wang’s competition entry may help turtles to avoid hazardous fishing nets completely. The innovative idea of one individual has reduced the risk of an entire species to avoid disaster.
You can find out more about what WWF are doing to help protect turtles here.