Sustainable fishing gear: the case of modified circle hooks in a Costa Rican longline fishery
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- Swimmer, Y., Suter, J., Arauz, R. et al. Mar Biol (2011) 158: 757. doi:10.1007/s00227-010-1604-4
Our research aims to identify longline fishing gear modifications that can improve fishing selectivity and reduce incidental capture of non-target species. Catch rates and anatomical hook locations (AHL) were compared when using a 14/0 standard “control” circle hook with a 0° offset and an experimental “appendage” hook in a Costa Rican longline fishery. With the appendage, the maximum dimension of the appendage hook was increased by 10% and the minimum dimension of the hook by 19%. A total of 1,811 marine animals were captured during five fishing trips. By taxonomic groups, sea turtles represented the largest total catch (27%), followed by sharks (26%), rays (25%), mahimahi (Coryphaena hippurus) (12%), and tunas and billfish (10%). Non-target and discard species, such as rays and sea turtles, accounted for over half of the total catch. Catch per unit effort (CPUE; number of individuals per 1,000 hooks) was higher with control hooks compared to appendage hooks for all species’ categories except rays; appendage hooks caught 52% fewer sea turtles and 23% fewer tunas and billfish than standard hooks, which represents a significant reduction in bycatch of endangered and other species. No differences were found in the AHL for sea turtles, suggesting use of the appendage may not incur additional advantages regarding turtles’ post-release survivorship. Despite lower catch rates for marketable species, such as sharks and mahimahi, use of the appendage resulted in dramatic reductions in catch rates of sea turtles. The results suggest that large scale adoption of hooks with a significantly wider hook dimension could be an effective conservation measure to maintain marine biodiversity while allowing for continued fishing.