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The term “bycatch” is used to describe marine organisms who aren’t supposed to get trapped in fishing nets, but who get caught anyways. Unfortunately, bycatch is one of the biggest threats to marine wildlife. Luckily, scientists have come up with a solution.
Fishtek Marine Engineers in collaboration with scientists from BirdLife International and the Estonian Ornithological Society invented LEB. LEB is a scarecrow and is short for looming-eyes buoy. Its purpose is to deter birds from diving into gillnets which are vertical nets used in small scale fisheries.
Just like many animals, birds get scared when confronted with direct eye-contact or eyelike spots. Therefore LEB’s bright, googly eyespots and looming movement naturally intimidates birds, making this scarecrow a promising method for reducing bycatch.
The LEB scarecrow is also a more inexpensive alternative to other solutions tested like putting black and white contrasting panels on fishing nets or red or yellow hosepipes.
The tests on LEB were done on long-tailed ducks in Küdema Bay, near Saaremaa Island in Estonia and they’ve been very promising. The research team found that within a 50 meter radius of the buoy, birds were reduced by a quarter. The team also found that the scarecrow lessened the flock of long-tailed ducks by 20 to 30 percent. However, once the LEB was removed the birds returned meaning that they aren’t permanently averted.
The LEB is currently a prototype but will soon be tested in small scale fisheries. The team behind LEB hopes that it will be ready to save thousands of birds per year in the near future.
Photo: Andres Kalamees/RSPB/PA via The Guardian