SeaBird Saver: an innovative laser technology to reduce seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries

van Dam W, Schrijver E, Sorensen B (2014) SeaBird Saver: an innovative laser technology to reduce seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries. ACAP Seabird Bycatch Working Group, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Mustad Autoline and SaveWave have developed the SeaBird Saver, a seabird bycatch prevention technology based on innovative laser technology that functions to exclude seabirds from the dangerous areas around fishing vessels. The laser can be coupled with acoustic stimuli creating a dual deterrent. This document summarises results at-sea trials of the SeaBird Saver, with and without the acoustic deterrent, aboard the Icelandic autoline vessel Tjaldur targeting Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in coastal Icelandic fishing grounds around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The assemblage of seabirds included northern fulmars, kittiwakes and various larid species.
Over three sets each of 40,000 hooks each, results show that the laser pushed seabirds away from the stern of the ship. Birds quickly reoccupied that area from which they were displaced by the laser when the device was turned off. Although some birds were not displaced, none actively interacted with the line. Available evidence shows that these birds do not habituate to the laser stimulus. These results suggest that the laser beam (and the associated “dot”) of the SeaBird Saver is a successful seabird deterrent that is highly effective during dawn, dusk, cloudy, rainy or foggy conditions. Our experience suggests that marine birds respond to the unnatural and unpredictable threat introduced by the physical presence of the laser dot and beam. Although the laser is designed to be directed at the area adjacent to bird aggregations, and not the bird’s eyes, questions have emerged regarding the potential damage the class 4 laser might pose to the retina of seabirds. We appeal to ACAP to collaborate on at-sea trials to determine the potential of the SeaBird Saver as a best practice seabird bycatch mitigation option for commercial fisheries.