Are circle hooks effective in reducing incidental captures of loggerhead sea turtles in a Mediterranean longline fishery?



  • 1.A known fishing hot spot for loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the Mediterranean Sea is in the waters of the Strait of Sicily where interactions with fish hooks and branchlines are believed to be a major cause of mortality for sea turtles.
  • 2.Hooks with different shapes but a similar gape width (circle hook size 16/0 vs J hook size 2) were tested in order to determine the potential effectiveness of the hook design to both reduce sea turtle capture as well as to maintain acceptable levels of target species capture rates in a shallow-set longline swordfish fishery in the Mediterranean.
  • 3.Seven experimental fishing trips, 30 000 hooks total, were conducted on a single commercial fishing vessel (18 m in length) in the Strait of Sicily during the months of July through October over a period of three years from 2005 to 2007. Circle and J hooks were alternated along the mainline.
  • 4.A total of 26 sea turtles were hooked, all immature-size Caretta caretta. Turtles were caught at a statistically greater frequency on J hooks than on circle hooks. The capture rate, weight, and upper jaw fork length of the target species were not significantly different between the two types of hooks employed.
  • 5.Five sea turtles swallowed the hook and in all such cases these were J type. Circle hooks tended to be located externally and were more easily detected by fishermen, and could be removed with the correct dehooking action before returning the turtle to the sea.
  • 6.These findings suggest that 16/0 circle hooks can effectively reduce the incidental capture of immature loggerhead sea turtles in a Mediterranean swordfish longline fishery without affecting the catch size of the target species.

Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.