High energy lasers have been used to deter seabirds from interacting with bait, catch or discards. However, in their recent review of mitigation technique efficacy, ACAP (2023) found that high energy lasers (Class 4 lasers, the highest class in terms of laser hazards) are ineffective at deterring seabirds from danger areas around fishing vessels (Melvin et al. 2016) and likely damage seabird visual systems with negative effects on foraging behaviour of laser exposed seabirds (Fernandez-Juricic, 2023).

Seabird Saver - not recommended
The Seabird Saver is an example of laser technology which has been used on commercial fishing vessels and is not recommended due to safety concerns for seabirds and humans. It combined a laser and an optional acoustic deterrent, with the aim of scaring seabirds from interacting with bait, catch or discards. It could be used with streamer lines. The laser beam and acoustic stimulus were adapted for birds, with the laser beam calibrated to be both visible to birds and effective on liquid surfaces. The beam presented an unnatural and unpredictable threat to marine birds, causing them to avoid contact and fly away. It could be widened to improve visibility and potentially reduce retinal damage to birds. 
The acoustic deterrent used 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'.
Ease of Deployment and Safety

Concerns are ongoing regarding the safety (to both humans and birds) and efficacy of laser technology of unknown energy levels as a seabird bycatch mitigation tool, as they continue to be used currently in various fisheries. Available evidence shows that high energy lasers are no longer marketed for fishery applications.

Currently evidence is lacking on the possibility that lasers of lower energy levels delivered in different ways (scanning, blinking, colour, wave-length, etc.) could be used safely and be effective in some applications.

Further Research

As high energy lasers continue to be used in some fisheries, we encourage reporting of the extent and output power levels of laser use by ACAP Parties, including any information on effectiveness, as well as bird welfare effects.

  1. WWF. 2014. 2014 Smart Gear Special Prize Winner: Seabird Saver. Accessed 3/3/2016.
  2. ACAP. 2023. ACAP Review of mitigation measures and Best Practice Advice for Reducing the Impact of Pelagic Longline Fisheries on Seabirds. In: ACAP - 13th Meeting of the Advisory Committee. Edinburgh, UK
  3. 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.
  4. Fernandez-Juricic E. 2023. Laser technology for seabird bycatch prevention in commercial fisheries. In: ACAP - 11th Meeting of the Seabird Bycatch Working Group. SBWG11 Doc 11, Edinburgh, UK