Accidental discovery that scallops love ‘disco’ lights leads to new fishing technique – The Guardian

May 18, 2022 by No Comments

An unusual technique for catching scallops that was stumbled upon accidentally by scientists could potentially reduce some of the damage caused to our seabeds by fishing.

The marine scientist Dr Rob Enever and his team at Fishtek Marine, a fisheries consultancy based in Devon, designed small underwater “potlights” to help protect fish stocks by replacing the need to use fish to bait crab and lobster pots.

The lights were supposed to attract crabs into the pots. But quite unexpectedly, scallops, which can have up to 200 eyes, were more attracted to the LED lights. “It’s like a scallop disco – illuminate the trap and they come in. It’s astonishing that no one else has discovered this before. It’s quite an exciting find,” said Enever.

Scallops jump into pots with ‘disco’ lights in potential new fishing strategy – video

“This has the potential to open up a whole new inshore fishery and that’s a global first.”

Commercially, scallops are the most valuable fishery in England and the fourth most valuable in the UK, according to the latest government sea fisheries statistics. Most are caught by dredging, which at an industrial-scale is damaging to marine habitats. However, using scuba divers to hand-pick them is labour intensive, time-consuming and therefore more expensive.

Enever hopes scallop potting could create a low-input, low-impact fishery that supplements the income of crab and lobster fishers with this high-value catch.

In 2019, Enever, who specialises in reducing the impacts of fishing on the marine environment using technology, trialled the potlights with the Newlyn-based fisher Jon Ashworth off the Cornish coast. Although Ashworth did not notice any difference in crab or lobster catches, he found huge numbers of European king scallops in his pots.

The lights were supposed to attract crabs into the pots but unexpectedly scallops were more attracted to the LED lights. Photograph: Simon Hird/Fishtek Marine

“Pretty much every pot that we hauled had scallops in them and yet every haul without lights had no scallops. It was conclusive, there and then,” said Ashworth. “To have proof that lights can be used to catch scallops has got to have some awesome implications looking forward.”

In further experiments, a total of 1,886 pots were hauled – 985 experimental pots with lights caught 518 scallops; 901 control pots without lights caught only two. Overall, 99.6% of scallops were caught in pots with lights. This research, funded by Defra and Natural England, is outlined in a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of Fisheries Research this week.

In experiments, of 1,886 pots hauled, 985 pots with lights caught 518 scallops while 901 pots without lights caught only two. Photograph: Simon Hird/Fishtek Marine

Dr Bryce Stewart, a marine ecologist and fisheries …….



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