The Seabird Saver is a recently developed technology combining a laser and an optional acoustic deterrent. It has been designed for longline, purse seine and trawl fisheries, among others, with the aim of scaring many different seabird species from interacting with bait, catch or discards. It can be combined with streamer lines.
In longline fisheries, the version of Seabird Saver recommended for use on larger vessels combines both laser and acoustic deterrents in a mounted, movable unit with its own power supply. The laser system is protected against extreme cold and frost by an internal heating system. Once mounted on a rail or other high vantage point it can be aimed at the prop wash at the stern of the vessel where baited hooks are set. Laser or sound may be used individually or in combination. An alternative hand-held, battery driven unit is better suited for use on smaller vessels. In this version, the unit is shaped like a torch/flashlight.
The laser beam and acoustic stimulus have been adapted for birds, with the laser beam calibrated to be both visible to birds and effective on liquid surfaces. The beam presents an unnatural and unpredictable threat to marine birds, causing them to avoid contact and fly away. It can be widened to improve visibility and also to reduce potential retinal damage to birds (a small risk with long term exposure). However, in their Best Practice Advice (2021), ACAP found that laser technology lacked scientific substantiation and is not recommended, with bird welfare (and human safety) issues needing to be addressed (see also Melvin 2016).
The acoustic deterrent is a scrambling of natural predator and distress calls concentrated in a narrow (15 degrees) bundle, creating a mobile sound ‘beam’. Monitoring efficacy over time is required, to ensure that seabirds do not become habituated to the device. See comments about habituation in 'Auditory deterrents and attractors'.
- New Zealand Department of Conservation. 2014. Bycatch Bylines. Issue 12 June 2014. http://www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/conservation-services-programme/bycatch…
- SaveWave. http://www.seabirdsaver.com/longline/. Accessed 3/3/2016.
- WWF. 2014. 2014 Smart Gear Special Prize Winner: Seabird Saver. https://www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/international-smart-gear-competition. Accessed 3/3/2016.
ACAP (2017) ACAP Review and Best Practice Advice for Reducing the Impact of Pelagic Longline Fisheries on Seabirds. In: ACAP - Tenth Meeting of the Advisory Committee. ACAP, Wellington, New Zealand.
Melvin EF, Asher W, Fernandez-Juricic E, Lim A (2016) Results of initial trials to determine if laser light can prevent seabird bycatch in North Pacific fisheries. In: ACAP - Seventh Meeting of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group. ACAP, Serena, Chile, p ACAP-SBWG7-Inf12.