Fishers Helping Turtles, Turtles Helping Fishers – Using Sustainable Bycatch Reduction Technology to Reduce Marine Turtle Mortality

Agnese Mancini

Other projects

10 Mar 2006

Incidental Bycatch or Directed Harvest? Mortality Rates of Sea Turtles in Baja California Sur, Mexico

1 May 2007

Incidental by Catch or Directed Harvest? Mortality Rates of Sea Turtles in Baja California Sur, Mexico

10 Sep 2010

Home Range and Incidental Fishery of East Pacific Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) at San Ignacio Lagoon, BCS, Mexico

9 Jul 2013

Promoting Grass-Root Conservation of Natural Resources in San Ignacio Lagoon, BCS, Mexico

This project aims to reduce bycatch of marine turtles in North western Mexico using illuminated fishing nets. Illuminated nets were found to reduce bycatch in fisheries worldwide, nevertheless they are expensive, produce waste, and are cumbersome to fish with. Therefore, we partnered with 1) a team of electrical and energy engineers from Arizona State University who are working to develop solar-powered LED lights; and 2) fishermen from Baja California Sur who will be involved in the integration of the new lights into the nets. We hope that results from this project can be applied to reduce bycatch of other endangered species, and in coastal communities worldwide.


Recent research has shown that using illuminated nets at specific light spectra reduces bycatch of marine turtles and other endangered species by over 50%. Specifically, in our study area (Baja California Sur, BCS, Mexico), LED lights have been tested and showed great potential to reduce bycatch of endangered species. Nevertheless, this technology has some drawbacks: LED lights are expensive, heavy, and generate too much waste (batteries need to be replaced approximately every few weeks).

For this reason, we teamed up with a team led by Dr Jesse Senko and Dr Jennifer Blain Christen from Arizona State University who are working to develop miniaturized solar-powered LED lights that could be clipped to fishing nets. Prototypes are expected to be available by the fall of 2018. While this new technology is being created, it is imperative to start working with local fishermen and communities in BCS in order to guarantee testing and possibly early adoption of new fishing gear and bycatch reduction technologies. Furthermore, engaging fishermen in the project since the beginning will help Dr Senko’s team adjust the device design so that they can be used in active, commercial fisheries. In a preliminary workshop, fishermen showed great interest in this project and provided some very useful ideas on the LED design and attachment mechanism to the net. We identified four communities where fishermen agreed to participate in further meetings and workshops. Therefore, we are hoping to run a series of workshops to improve the design of modified fishing gear, test newly developed technology, assess their effectiveness to reduce bycatch, and evaluate the willingness of fishermen to ‘adopt’ the modified fishing gear we are currently working to develop. This work has the potential to substantially reduce turtle bycatch mortality and increase overall fisheries sustainability in BCS and in coastal communities with similar fisheries.

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