The Looming-eyes buoy aims to deter diving seabirds from entering the area around static gillnets. Static gillnets pose a threat to seabirds as they are made of a monofilament nylon, which is virtually invisible to foraging seabirds diving under the water, so birds can become entangled. In recent years, the Looming-eyes buoy has been designed a way to keep seabirds away from these problem areas, by affixing pairs of conspicuous “eye-spots”on floating buoys – much like a scarecrow.
These looming eyes, bobbing and spinning in the water at the end of a tall pole, are believed to evoke a behavioural avoidance response in birds, preventing them not only from diving near the gillnets, but from entering the area at all. A prototype has been made from carbon and steel, featuring a panel that rotates in the wind, allow the device to spin and creating a movement that stops birds from ‘habituating’ to the device.
A recent trial found long-tailed duck presence to decline by 20-30% within a 50m radius of the Looming-eyes buoy, in a controlled experimental setting. No evidence was found for a memory effect on the ducks, but some habituation was noted within the 62-day time frame. These preliminary trials suggest that the Looming-eyes buoy (and above-water devices more generally) could contribute to reducing seabird bycatch. However, in a more recent trial in the Icelandic lumpfish fishery, the buoy was found to have no significant effect on rates of bycatch of Eider Ducks or guillemot species.
The RSPB, Birdlife International, Cornwall IFCA, and Natural England (NE), are collaborating with gillnet fishers along the south and west coast of Cornwall to trial two devices to see whether they provide an effective and practical measure for reducing seabird bycatch. This trial will look at both Looming-eyes buoys and predator-shaped kites with the help of local fishers, comparing those to traditionally used nets. The trials will be run over two winters, with the results expected in June 2023. The trial will be focused on the Falmouth Bay to St Austell Bay Special Protection Area (SPA) which is important for black-throated diver, great northern diver and Slavonian grebe. Shag, cormorant, razorbill and guillemot also occur there. The RSPB has received a £50k funding boost from the DEFRA G7 Legacy Fund for this project. The funding will enable the purchase of the buoys and predator kites, as well as engaging with local fishers who would like to be part of this exciting research project. More details can be found on the Cornwall IFCA website.
Interested in how this and other measures could mitigate bycatch in your fishery? Get in touch with us to collaborate or take part in a study.
This page was last updated on 14.06.23.