Reducing seabird bycatch in gillnets is one of the most challenging fisheries bycatch issues with few promising technical solutions available. Global seabird bycatch numbers in gillnet fisheries estimate that approximately 400,000 seabirds are killed annually. Developed in collaboration with scientists at BirdLife International the Looming Eye Buoy (LEB) utilises our knowledge and understanding of seabird diving behaviour and visual perception to prevent seabirds from diving into gillnets. Used in the vicinity of deployed gillnets the buoy acts as an above water visual deterrent that reduces the chance of seabirds diving too close to nets, thus reducing the risk of bycatch.
In 2020, after initial testing, a prototype device was trialed in Küdema Bay, Estonia where seaducks are present in high number. The results were very promising! The number of birds present in areas with and without LEBs was recorded with long-tailed duck abundance declining by approximately 20-30% within a 50m radius of the LEBs with no habituation effect noted. Read the full study here.
Using these results this prototype device will enter the next stage of development, with the trialing of more lightweight material and tweaking of the design. The devices will continue to be trialed in further fisheries.
Designed to be easy to use and low cost. We designed the black and white eye pattern to elicit a strong evasive response from seabirds. The size of the eye pattern is designed on the recorded visual ability of Canada geese which have one of the lowest visual acuity measured in birds. The looming eye design is printed onto a rotating device with two differently sized eye patterns, this creates the ‘looming’ effect when the panels rotate in the wind. The rotating panels are fixed to a pole which is then fixed to a standard multi- purpose buoy with a counterweight fixed at the base in ensure balance.