Aquatic Scarecrow Scares Sea Birds Away From Dangerous Nets

Conservation is important. As humans, we need to do our best to live in harmony with nature and do our best to prevent it from being destroyed.

When it comes to fishing, there is a fair amount of push for more sustainable and humane fishing practices that can help to reduce the waste and bycatch that often happens.

It’s not just other fish or marine mammals that can be affected by this. Seabirds can also get entangled in nets as bycatch.

Photo: flickr/USFWS – Pacific Region

In order to prevent them from getting caught in fishing nets, some conservationists have come up with a solution, and it looks a lot like Pixar’s WALL-E. Basically, it’s an aquatic scarecrow.

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Explorers Against Extinction shared a photo of the device on Facebook, saying, “Scientists from BirdLife International and the Estonian Ornithological Society tested LEB on long-tailed ducks in Kudema Bay, Estonia – results were encouraging.”

Photo: Facebook/Explorers Against Extinction

It was invented as a part of an attempt to scare off seabirds before they can get themselves caught in nets. The WALL-E scarecrow is just a pair of googly-eyes attached to a floating buoy, but it has done a pretty good job of decreasing seabird entanglement by 25%. This particular floating WALL-E has been scaring birds in the Estonian waters.

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Fishing bycatch is responsible for 400,000 seabird deaths annually – a figure that many conservationists believe is a preventable loss with the right deterrents. It has been found following a 250-hour experiment in the waters off the coast of Estonia, that it is indeed effective. However, once the buoys were removed, the birds came back. This means that there is still some work to be done.

The lead author of the study, Yann Rouxel, believes that the results are promising. Rouxel said, “The development of low-cost devices such as the LEB offers up simple, yet innovative, solutions to these conservation problems and so that everybody benefits. The next step is for us to test the device in gillnet fisheries to ensure that seabird bycatch is reduced.”

Photo: flickrLance /Mannion

The WALL-E lookalike will be rolled out at the Icelandic Lumpfish fisheries and their gillnets in order to truly test out its effectiveness on other seabird species. If it proves to be successful this could be a low-cost solution to the problem of gillnet bird bycatch.

Gillnet bycatch of seabirds isn’t the easiest bycatch to prevent, and using other measures such as enforced closure of fisheries or banning of gillnets could have a negative impact on local economies.

This economic effect could especially be devastating to developing countries such as those in Africa that heavily rely on fishing as a main source of income. But if this aquatic scarecrow proves to be a good solution, it could just be the answer everyone has been looking for.

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