Pink shrimp fishery uses LED lights on nets

MSC certified fisheries' practices help conserve more than large marine animals. The Oregon and Washington pink shrimp fishery off the west coast of the USA is working to protect a lesser-known fish.

The pink shrimp fishery's area of operation is also home to a tiny silver fish called eulachon. Their name comes from the local Chinookan languages. Eulachon are also known as candlefish because they used to be dried and used as candles. Like salmon, eulachon migrate from the sea up rivers to spawn. 

Eulachon at risk 

Climate change, habitat loss and the impacts of fisheries may all have contributed to declining numbers of eulachon. The species is now classified as threatened under the USA Endangered Species Act. In 2013, state fishery managers began to research ways to reduce the amount of eulachon caught. This came in response to a condition of MSC recertification. 

LED lights reduce eulachon bycatch

Researchers found that by placing LED lighting on the foot ropes of the nets that reduced unwanted catch of eulachon by 80-90%. By 2018, 100% of vessels adopted this method. As a result of the success, the use of LED lights has spread to shrimp fisheries across California, Oregon and Washington. The addition of the LED lights helped not only eulachon: researchers found slender sole bycatch was reduced by 69%, dark-blotched rockfish decreased by 82% and other rockfish by 56%. No one knows how the lights reduce the catch. It could be that the light illuminates an escape path or that it encourages the fish to move downwards, or it might act as a warning to avoid the oncoming trawl. You can read more about the bycatch reduction and the fishery in the 2019 Pink Shrimp Review Newsletter.

A group of eulachon fish taken from below swimming in a river
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