Gadget for Fishing Nets Could Save Sea Turtles, or Could Be Useless Junk


Photo via Cliff1066 via Flickr CC

Sea turtles have a far higher chance of surviving being caught in fishing nets if those fishing nets are pulled up within 50 minutes. A 7-inch long silver cylinder attached to fishing nets that gauges how long the net has been underwater could potentially save the lives of sea turtles and easy future fishing restrictions. Or it could potentially be a useless piece of junk that does nothing but add to the e-waste piling up on our planet. It's all up to the fishermen who would use the technology only out of the goodness of their hearts, not out of requirement.The New York Times reports that the devices built by Onset Computer Corporation would be attached to fishing nets and essentially tattletale on fishermen. The device is made to record water depth every 30 seconds once the net drops below two meters, recording whenever the net stays under for longer than a preset time limit. The overdue net pulls are then caught when regulators download the device's data.

Major Cons:
Expense - these devices cost between $600 and $800, which are expensive buggers to tack onto a fishing net that could be lost at sea. Since there's no regulation requiring them to be used, getting fishermen to purchase them could be difficult.
Timing Doesn't Work for Fishermen - Turtles caught in nets will likely live if pulled up before too long, but the short tow times yield small catches and don't work for the fishermen who want the biggest catch possible each time they cast their nets. Getting them to pull every 50 minutes or so to check for turtles will be tough.
No Rules Yet - There are still no set limits for timing yet, as the device is still being perfected. The article points out that this device and measuring the length of time a net stays under water isn't the "cure-all" for sea turtles.

fishing nets colorful photo

Photo via miemo via Flickr CC
Major Pros:
Saving Turtles. Period - Fact is, ending up as by-catch is a big problem for threatened sea turtles, which is requiring regulations and changes in fishing techniques if they're to get a fair shot at survival. Ensuring they have a fighting chance at not drowning after being caught in a net would go a long way.
Saving the Future of Fisheries - As pointed out in the article, a device like this can help prevent regulators from having to shut down fishing areas altogether while still preserving marine life, helping out fishermen whose livelihoods depend on catches.

It's still a highly controversial device, but an option nonetheless. Regulators hope to have it be one of the options when, as RedOrbit points out, they propose a set of rules that will meet upcoming federal requirements fo protecting sea turtles from trawling nets. They hope to have the rules ready for public discussion in 2010.

More on Saving Sea Turtles
Think Mom's the Best? Share Her With a Sea Turtle
What You Can Do to Protect Sea Turtles
An Instance When Man-Made Fibers Help a Sea Turtle Out

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