Green lights on fishing nets could slash bycatch of sea turtles, says research

Sea turtles are magnificent marine creatures that roam the oceans, playing crucial roles in maintaining marine ecosystems. However, they face numerous threats, including habitat destruction, pollution, and perhaps most prominently, bycatch in fishing operations. Bycatch, the unintended capture of non-target species, presents a significant challenge to the conservation of sea turtles worldwide. In recent years, researchers have explored innovative solutions to mitigate sea turtle bycatch, one of which involves the use of green lights on fishing nets. This essay delves into the research surrounding the effectiveness of green lights in reducing sea turtle bycatch, highlighting its potential benefits and implications for marine conservation efforts.

Understanding Sea Turtle Bycatch

Sea turtles often fall victim to bycatch in various types of fishing gear, including longlines, trawls, and gillnets. These marine reptiles can become entangled in nets or hooked on longlines meant for commercially valuable species such as tuna and swordfish. The consequences of bycatch are dire, leading to injuries, drowning, and death among sea turtles. Moreover, bycatch exacerbates the decline of already threatened sea turtle populations, undermining decades of conservation efforts.

The Role of Green Lights

Recent research has suggested that the use of green lights on fishing gear could significantly reduce sea turtle bycatch. The concept behind this approach lies in exploiting the visual capabilities of sea turtles, particularly their sensitivity to specific wavelengths of light. Green lights, when strategically placed on fishing nets or lines, could make them more visible to sea turtles, allowing the animals to detect and avoid the gear.

Scientific Studies Supporting Green Lights

Several scientific studies have investigated the efficacy of green lights in mitigating sea turtle bycatch. For instance, a study conducted in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico found that incorporating green LED lights into commercial fishing nets resulted in a substantial reduction in sea turtle bycatch. The researchers observed fewer entanglements and interactions between sea turtles and illuminated nets compared to conventional, unlit nets. These findings indicate the potential of green lights as a practical and cost-effective solution to mitigate sea turtle bycatch in commercial fisheries.

Mechanisms Behind Green Light Effectiveness

The effectiveness of green lights in reducing sea turtle bycatch can be attributed to several mechanisms. Firstly, green lights enhance the visibility of fishing gear to sea turtles without significantly altering the behavior of target species, such as fish. Unlike traditional white lights, which may attract both target and non-target species, green lights appear to be less attractive to fish while still alerting sea turtles to the presence of the gear. Additionally, green lights may disrupt the natural camouflage of fishing nets, making them more conspicuous to sea turtles swimming in dimly lit environments.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the promising results of research on green lights, implementing this technology in commercial fisheries presents various challenges and considerations. One challenge is the acceptance and adoption of green light technology by the fishing industry. Fishers may be hesitant to adopt new practices or incur additional costs associated with retrofitting their gear with green lights. Additionally, the effectiveness of green lights may vary depending on factors such as water depth, habitat characteristics, and the behavior of target and non-target species. Therefore, further research is needed to optimize the design and deployment of green light systems for different fishing contexts.


Sea turtle bycatch poses a significant threat to the conservation of these iconic marine species. Addressing this challenge requires innovative approaches that minimize interactions between sea turtles and fishing gear. The use of green lights on fishing nets emerges as a promising solution, offering a practical and effective means of reducing sea turtle bycatch in commercial fisheries. Scientific studies have provided compelling evidence of the effectiveness of green lights in mitigating bycatch, highlighting the potential of this technology to enhance marine conservation efforts worldwide. However, successful implementation will require collaboration between researchers, policymakers, and the fishing industry to overcome challenges and ensure the widespread adoption of green light technology. By embracing innovative solutions such as green lights, we can work towards a future where sea turtles thrive in healthy and sustainable marine ecosystems.

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