Scientists accidentally discover ‘scallop discos’ as an eco-friendly fishing method

According to government statistics, the UK fleet catches almost 30,000 tonnes worth of scallops each year. They have been caught at great environmental costs. 

Large-scale commercial scallop harvesting uses dredges to scrape the shellfish from the sea bed – a practice that damages sensitive habitats and other species. It is expensive and time-consuming to hire scuba divers to do this job.

Researchers from York collaborated with Devon-based consultancy for fisheries. Fishtek MarineWhen they discovered the scallops, they were able to create a new way to catch crab and lobster.

Instead of using crab pots to bait fish stocks, they used LED lights to lure fisheries off the Cornish coast. But although the marine crustaceans failed to fall for the ruse, scallops – which have excellent vision and up to 200 eyes – did.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was sceptical that it would work, but the first time we hauled the pots and saw the scallops inside, we knew we had discovered something significant,” said Fishtek Marine’s Dr Rob Enever, lead author of the study. “It was so exciting that I could hardly sleep for a few nights.”

The idea has undergone further tests using funding from Natural England and the UK government’s Seafood Innovation Fund. It was revealed that scallops are indeed attracted to disco lights.

It is hoped that this discovery will lead to more efficient commercial fishing methods.

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