Circle hooks help save sea turtles

Preliminary results from the first large-scale testing of specially designed fishing hooks are being presented at the Annual Meeting of the Inter- American Tropical Tuna Commission in Lanzarotte, Spain.

Thus far, the results indicate the use of circle hooks can reduce the number of endangered sea turtles killed in long line fishing operations by as much as 90 percent, World Wildlife Fund said today.

Incidental death-as a result of traditional long line fishing operations-is one of the main reasons for the precipitous decline of loggerhead, and giant leatherback turtles, whose numbers in the Eastern Pacific have plunged by more than 90 percent over the past 20 years.

Scientists estimate that as many as 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks are caught annually by commercial long-line tuna, swordfish, and other fisheries.

The results of a year-long study involving 115 Ecuadorian fishing vessels found “bycatch” was dramatically reduced when the boats replaced their traditional “J’ shaped hooks with specially designed circle hooks. “This is a win-win situation. We were looking for a way to save the turtles without putting the fishermen out of business. The preliminary results indicate we’ve found it. Circle hooks seem to be an effective new tool in our efforts to address this urgent conservation problem,