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Net Illumination Reduces Fisheries Bycatch, Maintains Catch Value, and Increases Operational Efficiency

January 20, 2022

We study how illuminating gillnets decreases bycatch and economizes resources for small-scale coastal gillnet fisheries.

Image of illuminated gillnet with graph comparisons of bycatch. See publication for detailed description of data presented.
(A) Illuminated gillnet with green LED light as well as comparison of mean biomass bycatch per unit effort (BPUE) of all bycatch taxonomic groups (B) and total bycatch (C) between control versus illuminated nets. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Small-scale fisheries are vital for food security, nutrition, and livelihoods in coastal areas throughout the world’s oceans. 

Due to their linked social-ecological systems, small-scale fisheries require management approaches that help ensure both ecological and socioeconomic sustainability. Given their ease of use and lucrative nature, coastal gillnet fisheries can be found globally.

Here we used controlled experiments along Mexico’s Baja California peninsula to show that illuminating gillnets with green LED lights significantly reduced mean rates of total discarded bycatch biomass. Moreover, illuminated nets significantly reduced the mean time required to retrieve and disentangle nets. In contrast, there were no significant differences in target fish catch or value. 

This research found that lighted gillnets reduced total fisheries bycatch by 63 percent, which included a 95 percent reduction in sharks, skates, and rays, an 81 percent reduction in Humboldt squid, and a 48 percent reduction in unwanted finfish, while maintaining catch rates and market value of target fish.

These findings advance our understanding of how artificial illumination affects operational efficiency and changes in catch rates in coastal gillnet fisheries, while illustrating the value of assessing broad-scale ecological and socioeconomic effects of species-specific conservation strategies.

Senko JF, Peckham SH, Aguilar-Ramirez D, Wang JH. 2022. Net illumination reduces fisheries bycatch, maintains catch value, and increases operational efficiency. Current Biology. 32:1-8.  


Last updated by Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center on 01/24/2022

Fisheries Interactions and Bycatch