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Floating ‘WALL-E’ Scarecrow Stops Seabirds from Diving into Fishing Nets

To prevent seabirds from getting caught in fishing nets, conservationists have developed an unusual water scarecrow that GNN staff summarily agreed looked like Pixar’s WALL-E.

Copyright Andres Kalamees, Estonian Ornithological Society

Invented as part of a multinational effort to create innovative solutions to prevent seabird bycatch, a pair of googly eyes mounted on a floating buoy was found to reduce by 25% the number of long-tailed ducks that prowl around gillnets in Estonian waters.

Bycatch, defined as the capture of unwanted animals in fishing nets and lines, accounts for the death of 400,000 birds worldwide each year, something that conservationists consider an avoidable tragedy with different types of deterrents.

Called Looming Eyes Buoy (LEB), scientists from Bird Life International’s Marine Program tested it on ducks off the coast of Estonia over a period of 250 hours to determine its effectiveness. In particular, the birds returned when the buoys were removed, suggestion limitations.

Yann Rouxel, lead author of the study reporting the results wrote: “The development of low-cost devices like the LEB offers simple but innovative solutions to these conservation problems and for everyone to benefit. The next step is for us to test the device in gillnet fisheries to ensure that seabird bycatch is reduced. “

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The next stop for the WALL-E buoy is the Icelandic lumpfish fisheries and their gillnets, to see if it can continue its preventative effects on other bird species.

Bycatch of seabirds with gillnets is not the easiest thing to prevent, and heavy-handed measures such as forced closure of fisheries or banning of nets can severely affect developing economies, especially in Africa. who depend on the fishing industry for much of their country for food and income.

Instead, scientists are opting for scarecrow tactics, low-cost solutions that allow gillnets to remain and do not accumulate unsustainable costs for fishermen.

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A solution like this in Namibia was almost perfectly successful in stringing brightly colored “streamer lines” from the backs of fishing trawlers. GNN reported last year that a 98% reduction in the death of albatrosses and other seabirds was seen after laws were passed requiring fishermen to place these lines on the back of their boats.

“It’s part of the glow and then the move, it’s been very, very effective around the world, other nations have reported successes besides Namibia,” Titus Shaanika, a Namibian conservationist and co-author of the study reporting on the gruesome lines. ‘ success, he told the BBC at the time.

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