Tuesdays with Turtles – Lighsticks Kill

Following up on the fishing issues from last week, here’s word that lights used to lure tuna towards longline fisheries attract juvenile sea turtles as well.

Article – Science & Technology – Lightsticks may hold deadly attraction for sea turtles

RALEIGH, N.C. Longline fishermen use lightsticks similar to the glowing tubes that delight trick-or-treaters to lure tuna and swordfish to baited hooks. New research by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill scientists suggests that for endangered sea turtles the lights may hold a fatal attraction.

Lab experiments by Ken Lohmann, a University of North Carolina biology professor and John Wang, a graduate who is now a research associate at the University of Hawaii and National Marine Fisheries, found that young loggerhead turtles in a tank tended to swim toward lights.

It’s well known that hatchling turtles on a beach will crawl toward lights as they try to find the surf. But researchers did not know whether juvenile loggerheads in the water shared that attraction. Young loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles, which are protected because of declining numbers, are inadvertently hooked during longline fishing.

Well, not so surprising, is it? Bioluminescence is a common enough phenomenon that especially at night, animals will be attracted to light as it can signal food. It’s tricky, but when you try to catch fish, tyou will catch other animals as well. So, when you change something about the way you catch fish, you need to study how it affects other endangered species…

Off topic, but it is ironic that I read this in the ocregister, which is a newspaper from Orange County, California. It reported on work done by UNC Chapel Hill, which is in Orange County, North Carolina.

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