Light attractors, including chemical lightsticks and battery-powered light-emitting diodes (LEDs), are attached near baited hooks on branchlines to attract fish. In the western and central Pacific Ocean, lightsticks are used by some longliners targeting swordfish. Line is usually set in the late evening and soaked overnight.
Laboratory studies have shown that sea turtles are drawn to the types of light attractors used in longline fishing. They appear to be attracted to glowing green, blue and yellow chemical lightsticks, as well as to orange LED-based 'Electrolume' lightsticks. However, these findings need field testing.
Further research is also required to evaluate several strategies that may make lightsticks less attractive or invisible to turtles, but still able to be perceived by finfish. These include:
- placing shades on the lightsticks (turtles spend most of their time higher in the water column than where swordfish hooks soak; shading means less light would reach upwards to the turtles),
- making the lights blink (at a very fast interval, so that finfish can see the light but not turtles),
- using attractors of specific colours emitting light at wavelengths not visible to turtles,
- using lightsticks that generate specific wavelengths that might repel turtles.
Other areas for research include:
- daylight conditions under which light attractors are still visible to turtles,
- the variation in visual capabilities between different turtle species.
With regard to gillnets, LED illumination of nets has been used successfully to reduce sea turtle bycatch without reducing target catch.
Sharks and stingrays
Little is known about how sharks and stingrays respond to the types of light attractors used by longliners.
Surveys of fisher knowledge of shark avoidance strategies have shown that many believe that using lightsticks increases shark catch rates (though without consensus on which colours are the most attractive to sharks). In contrast, recent trials in the Mediterranean Sea found that light attractors did not influence stingray bycatch.
Chondrichtyans are known to have highly developed non-visual senses, olfaction in particular, which are used in finding prey. This may impact upon the importance of light attractors in influencing shark catch rates and indicates the need for further research.
Illumination of gillnets using LEDs has been shown to reduce incidental capture of seabirds. Lasers have been used to deter seabirds from longlines. See Seabird Saver.
- Campagno (1990) in Piovano, S., Clo, S. and Giacoma, C. 2010. Reducing longline bycatch: The larger the hook, the fewer the stingrays. Biological Conservation 143(1): 261-264.
- Crognale, M.A., Eckert, S.A., Levenson, D.H. and Harms, C.A. 2008. Leatherback sea turtle Dermochelys coriacea visual capacities and potential reduction of bycatch by pelagic longline fisheries. Endangered Species Research 5(2-3):249-256.
- Gilman, E., Clarke, S., Brothers, N., Alfaro-Shigueto, J., Mandelman, J., Mangel, J., Petersen, S., Piovano, S., Thomson, N., Dalzell, P., Donoso, M., Goren, M. and Werner, T. 2007. Shark depredation and unwanted bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries: Industry practices and attitudes, and shark avoidance strategies. Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Honolulu, USA.
- Gless, J.M., Salmon, M. and Wyneken, J. 2008. Behavioral responses of juvenile leatherbacks Dermochelys coriacea to lights used in the longline fishery. Endangered Species Research 5:239-247.
- Piovano, S., Clo, S. and Giacoma, C. 2010. Reducing longline bycatch: The larger the hook, the fewer the stingrays. Biological Conservation 143(1): 261-264.
- Pooley, S.G. and Swimmer, Y. 2007. Environmental assessment sea turtle bycatch reduction research activities at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Swimmer, Y. and Wang, J.H. (eds). 2006. Sea Turtle and Pelagic Fish Sensory Physiology Workshop. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOAA-TM-NMFS-PIFSC-12.
- Wang, J.H., Boles, L.C., Higgins, B. and Lohmann, K.J. 2007. Behavioral responses of sea turtles to lightsticks used in longline fisheries. Animal Conservation 10: 176-182.