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).
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.
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.
- WWF. 2014. 2014 Smart Gear Special Prize Winner: Seabird Saver. https://www.worldwildlife.org/initiatives/international-smart-gear-competition. Accessed 3/3/2016.
- 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
- 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.
- 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