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Breakthrough study reveals that scallops are attracted to light

Scallops are usually caught by dredging, a destructive fishing method that tears up the seafloor and harms other life. Now, a study published in the journal Fisheries Research, shows there may be a better way. 

A team of scientists led by the University of Exeter fitted lobster pots with LED lights, and used them experimentally with fishermen off the coast of Cornwall in the UK. The lights did not seem to make a difference in the amount of lobster or crabs caught in the traps. Scallops on the other hand, swam into the pots in droves.  

“We were working on lights for crab and lobster pots and I gave some to a fisherman for testing,” said Dr. Rob Enever of Fishtek. “He told me the lights made no difference to crabs or lobsters, but he noticed quite a lot of scallops in his pots. We decided to test this properly in this study.”

“When I saw the results, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Boats that would only see two or three scallops in their pots annually were now seeing 20 or more in a single pot. We have found something really astonishing here. This could be a real opportunity for crab and lobster fishers, because the lights don’t seem to reduce the number of crabs and lobsters they can catch – they just bring in an extra haul of scallops.”

More than 500 scallops were caught. Of those, 99.6 percent were caught in lobster pots with lights in them. The researchers believe this breakthrough could ultimately lead to a widespread, improved method for catching scallops.

“We are delighted to be working with an excellent local company to do the science that underpins innovation that could be good for fishers and the environment,” said Dr. Phil Doherty.

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

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