Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for Scientific Research (FAuna) Permit is open until 3 August
Applicant: CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere
Species/Taxon: Focal species: silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae). Potential non-target species: Black-faced cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscescens); Pacific gull (Larus pacificus)
Location: Self’s Point (Tas Ports); McRobies Gully tip (Hobart City Council)
Title of research: Evaluating the potential of safe, low-powered lasers as seabird deterrents
Aim of project: This project aims to provide a preliminary assessment of the potential effectiveness of low-cost, low-powered lasers for deterring seabirds. It is intended as a pilot study to assess whether further investment and follow-up work are warranted, including at-sea trials on a commercial fishing vessel. This will include trials to assess whether lasers are effective in deterring seabirds at night time.
Justification: Drowning on the baited hooks of industrial fishing vessels is the greatest threat to the sustainability of albatrosses and petrels globally. Over 300,000 albatrosses are killed annually, placing some populations in jeopardy of extinction. Light-based deterrents (lasers) are increasingly popular and are relatively cheap and easily installed. Accepted commercially available lasers for fishing vessels are high-powered and use a single beam from the stern. Of concern is the potential for eye damage to both humans and birds, and the effectiveness of a single beam. This project will conduct a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of low-powered, low-cost lasers ‘fan’ lasers that will emit a ‘light curtain’ to cover an attractant and deter silver gulls.
The focal species for this project will be the silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), a confident scavenger that is relatively unafraid of humans, and commonly scavenges around fishing boats, jetties and wharves, as well as around garbage dumps and shopping centres. This makes it an ideal species for evaluating the effectiveness of deterrents. Its conservation status is ‘secure’ in all Australian states and territories. Two other species may also be present at the sites where we aim to run trials: the Black-faced cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscescens) and the Pacific gull (Larus pacificus). Neither species is of conservation concern at the state or national level.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: 2100 silver gulls; 20 black faced cormorants; 20 pacific gulls
Activities undertaken and methods: This project will involve repeated ‘control’ (no laser deterrent) and ‘treatment’ (with laser deterrent) night-time trials in which silver gulls will be presented with attractants (squid and fish baits) and their behaviour monitored over a 30-minute period. There will be a total of 4 replicate trials for each laser type and 8 control trials. A control trial will be conducted immediately prior to each laser treatment trial, as described below, meaning that this project will take place over 8 individual nights (1 control and 1 laser treatment per night). The order of laser treatments (fan or scatter) will be randomised. Trials will be filmed using a go-pro camera mounted on a tripod. At a distance of 20 m this will provide a wide field of view encompassing both the attractant and the surrounding area.
Fate of animals: We do not expect that this research project will have any effect on the health and wellbeing of the animals involved. The lasers we propose to use are an order of magnitude lower power than those that are already in wide-spread use for bird control both in Australia and internationally, and these higher-powered lasers have not resulted in any reported harm or injury to animals.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Potential for eye damage to birds from lasers.The lasers that we propose to use are considerably lower powered than devices that are currently commercially available and are already increasingly widely used without reports of eye damage to birds. By combining lower-powered emitters with optics that either disperse the beam over a wide area (line lasers) or scatter the beam chaotically (scatter lasers) we will ensure that it will be extremely unlikely for birds to be exposed at a level that could cause eye damage, and the beam will be at levels well below that which can cause harm to human eyes.Potential impacts on nesting/breeding success.Trials will not be undertaken at locations where birds are nesting or breeding.Interactions with non-target species. In selecting the sites for the trials, we will choose locations where silver gulls are likely the only species that will attend attractants (e.g. choosing locations where silver gulls are present, and away from any groups of other species).