Scallops love ‘disco lights’: chance discovery may lead to more eco-friendly fishing techniques | the animals

Scientists discovered by chance that scallops are attracted to LED lights. This means that gourmet seafood can be fished in a more environmentally friendly manner. “This could lead to the creation of a whole new inshore fishery, and this is a first of its kind worldwide,” says Rob Enver, enthusiastic British research leader.

Marine biologist Rob Enever and his team at Fishtek Marine of Devon have designed small underwater lanterns with LED lights and placed them in traps to catch crabs and lobsters without using fish as bait. So the light was supposed to attract crabs and lobsters, but quite unexpectedly, other sea creatures were mainly attracted to it: pectin maximus or scallops. “It’s like a disco for oysters: Light the trap and they go in,” Enver said. “It is amazing that no one has discovered this before. It is a really exciting discovery.”

The scallop is the most important commercial fish for English fisheries and the fourth most important fish species in the whole of the United Kingdom. They are usually caught by dredging, which is detrimental to marine habitats. The alternative is to have it hand-picked by divers, but this is labour-intensive, time-consuming and therefore more expensive. Working with lighted fisheries is a more environmentally friendly fishing technique and can provide additional income to lobster and lobster fishermen.

Early in 2019, it turned out that lantern traps landed off the coast of Cornwall were harboring not only crabs and lobsters, but plenty of scallops as well. Hunter John Ashworth found no scallops in the unlit traps, which was already a clear indication. Further experiments were conducted, with 985 illuminated fyke nets recovering 518 scallops, while 901 “control ponds” contained only two of those shells. 99.6 percent of scallops were caught in the lights fisheries.

Scallops have up to 200 eyes in the mantle, along the inner edges of the shell openings. “Most animals, including us, have lenses, but scallops don’t. They have mirrors on the back of their eyes and they also have two retinaes, one that perceives dark things and one that perceives lighter things. Marine biologist Bryce Stewart of York University told the Guardian: ” They may be able to use this contrast to detect motion.” According to him, scallops may prefer lit areas because they feel safe there or because plankton that eat them are easy to find there. Stewart believes this discovery is one of the most exciting things of his entire career.

This lantern runs on two AA rechargeable batteries and lasts five to ten years. Enever continues to set traps. It turns out that the scallop is more of a fan of blue than of white light. “Our goal is to get as close as possible to a commercially viable fishery,” Ennifer said. “I really think we can.”

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Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

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