Meet LEB: An aquatic scarecrow protecting birds from diving into fishing nets

Fishing is a problematic industry, not just for marine life, but for many different species. All over the world, when fishermen and women cast their nets into the water, they run the risk of catching animals they don’t intend to entangle, such as dolphins or birds.

“Bycatch” is the term that is used to refer to marine organisms that are not targeted by fishermen, but that get caught anyway. Bycatch continues to be one of the biggest threats to ocean wildlife, but luckily Fishtek Marine engineers have collaborated with scientists from BirdLife International and the Estonian Ornithological Society on a quirky solution.

The device they’ve created is called a looming-eyes buoy or ‘LEB’ for short. LEB is a “scarecrow” of sorts, but a marine-life version that deters seabirds from diving into gillnets (vertical nets used in small-scale fisheries). Its bright, googly eyespots and looming movements naturally intimidate birds. Like many animals, birds display signs of fear when confronted with direct eye contact or even eye-like spots, which makes this strange buoy a promising method of reducing bycatch.

Other strategies like black and white contrasting panels on fishing nets, red or yellow hosepipes, and LED lights have been used to prevent birds from drowning or harming themselves by getting caught in nets, but these googly-eyed devices are by far the most inexpensive option.

LEB was trialed on long-tailed ducks in Küdema Bay, near Saaremaa island in Estonia. The research team discovered that the device reduced the number of birds by a quarter within a 50-meter radius of the buoy. After 250 hours of observation, the team found that LEB lessened the congregation of long-tailed ducks by 20 to 30 percent. The birds would also come back to the area once LEB had been removed, meaning that birds aren’t permanently deterred.

LEB is still in its prototype phase, but the results so far have been favorable and will soon be tested in small-scale fisheries. The team hopes that soon, LEB will be ready to save thousands of birds per year.

Source Image: The Guardian

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