Devon scientists discover scallops love 'disco' lights with world first fishing technique

  • Watch Jacquie Bird's report.

Scientists and fishermen in Devon have made a global breakthrough in discovering an environmentally-friendly way to catch scallops.

Experts in Totnes have shown the animal can be caught using LED lights in pots, which they have called 'scallop discos'.

The world first technique is the result of work by Fishtek Marine - a Devon-based company - and it's thought it could reduce some of the damage caused to seabeds.

Scallops are traditionally caught using dredges, which can harm sensitive marine habitats and species, but the investigation shows that the scallops can be attracted into static fishing gear using LED lights.

Fisherman Jon Ashworth fishes for crab out of Newlyn on the Three Jays for the crab processing company 'See Food and Eat it'.

He was asked by Totnes company Fishtek if he would do a trial with some lights for his pots to see whether they would increase his yield of crabs.

Due to having 200 eyes, scallops were found to be particularly receptive to the lights.

Jon told ITV News: "We put the lights in alternate pots on one string and we shot them away and we waited for the results.

"Bear in mind that in a year I haul 35,000 pots, usually I would probably see no more than five scallops for the year.

"In that one string after a three to four day lay, we had 15 scallops - all of them in the pots with lights in them."

Dr Rob Enever, Head of Science and Uptake at Fishtek said the results of the study are "once in a lifetime".

"The first time that we hauled the pots and we saw the scallops there, it was one of those times that I couldn't sleep for a couple of nights - it was a pretty exciting moments."

The discovery was made accidentally, while doing research into crab and lobster fishing.

Scallops, which have 200 eyes, were found to be particularly receptive to the lights and naturally moved towards them.

Dr Enever said: "We were working on lights for crab and lobster pots and I gave some to a fisherman for testing", he said.

"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.

"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."

The LED lights are attached to fishing pots.

Fisheries Minister, Victoria Prentis, said: “The funding is supporting innovation, helping industry use cutting edge technology and protecting the marine environment.

"It is also an important part of levelling up coastal communities – and it is great to see Devon leading the way."

Further work will go ahead this summer to trial different techniques for the newly-discovered fishing method.