Iluminar El Mar

A project testing bycatch reduction lights in the Ecuadorian gillnet fishery and avenues for implementation and impact

Bycatch and non-target fishing is one of the issues that Ecuador, within its framework of international commitments and agreements, has decided must be urgently addressed. Bycatch refers to the unintended capture of fish and marine species and may include undesired species, species without economic value, and/or protected species. Endangered species bycatch in Ecuadorian artisanal fisheries is having drastic negative effects on marine wildlife. Of sea turtle bycatch within artisanal gillnet fisheries of the Southeast Pacific (Ecuador, Peru, and Chile), 87% occurs in Ecuador alone, which equates to approximately 40,480 sea turtles every year. Threatened and endangered species affected by fisheries bycatch include 5 sea turtle species, 4 marine mammal species, 11 elasmobranch (shark and ray) species, and 3 seabird species. 

Preliminary studies found that colored LED lights do not significantly affect target catch while decreasing endangered species bycatch by 93% for sea turtles, 71% for marine mammals, 95% for elasmobranchs (sharks & rays), and 84% for seabirds. We are conducting a pilot project to test the use of these effective LED lights in Ecuador’s artisanal gillnet fishery, in collaboration with the Fishermen Cooperative of Santa Rosa, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries. Onboard observers will be utilized to collaborate with participating fishermen to collect the detailed data. Preliminary studies have found that decreasing fisheries bycatch is a mutual goal between conservationists and fishermen.

Through workshops and accompanying surveys, we plan to conduct a socio-economic impact evaluation to report and explore the financial, social and operational impacts of introducing lights into the Ecuadorian artisanal fleets and plan a route to implementation locally and nationally. Engaging will all stakeholders in the value chain.

Meet the team