The glow sticks are used to attract fish on miles-long lines. However, the same lights are irresistible to the reptiles according to the study.
Because of commercial longline fishing operations, the population of sea turtles is only decreasing. There have been many cases in which turtles were accidentally caught.
Now, researchers are suggesting to change the type of light sticks used for fishing. This is the first study conducted to see the relationship between the decreasing number of these wonderful sea creatures and light sticks.
"Once the turtles are in the vicinity of the longlines, there's a high chance they will bite on the bait and become snagged," said study co-author John Wang of the University of Hawaii. "They can also get entangled in the fishing lines."
Unfortunately, species that are mostly suffering from this are endangered sea turtles: the loggerhead turtles and leatherbacks. A study conducted in 2000, showed that approximately 200,000 loggerhead turtles and 50,000 leatherback turtles were killed on longlines.
Turtles were put in a large laboratory tank. Wang and colleagues attached electronic tracking devices to them. Light sticks were put on the edge of the laboratory tank. The researchers then observed whether the turtles will be attracted to them or not.
According to Wang, the turtles did swim towards the light sticks, especially towards yellow, blue and green chemical glow sticks as well as orange LEDs.
"Turtles might mistake the light sticks for glowing jellyfish," said co-author Ken Lohmann, from the University of North Carolina."But it's equally plausible this is just an instinctive reaction to the unnatural continuous light."
Limiting or preventing the use of light sticks is not going to be a good solution because fishermen will not be able to catch fish. Researchers have teamed up with the industry to try and find a better solution and that would involved producing different coloured glow sticks that will still attract tuna and swordfish but be less attractive to sea turtles.
One possible strategy, Wang said, "is shading the light sticks to direct the light downward. Sea turtles use the top portion of the water column, while most target fish are caught as they move upward from deeper water."
Another type of lights being tested are called pulsing lights.
It is sad that they have just realized this. As you can see, many turtles have died because of these unfortunate events. It is depressing to hear that what we are supposed to protect and which we have put on the endangered list is slowly disappearing. In fact, it is unfortunate that we are actually contributing to the extinction of these beautiful sea creatures. I hope they are able to develop glow sticks which are not going to harm turtles anymore.