Do circle hooks reduce the mortality of sea turtles in pelagic longlines? A review of recent experiments
Circle hooks have been proposed as a means of reducing the by-catch mortality of sea turtles in pelagic longline fisheries to sustainable levels. I examine the efficacy of circle hooks as a sea turtle conservation measure by examining the results of field trials conducted in the western North Atlantic, the Azores, the Gulf of Mexico, and Ecuador. These experiments employed more than a million and a half hooks between 2000 and 2004 and, in general, were well designed, conducted and analyzed. Four of five experiments demonstrated a significant reduction in capture rate and/or hooking location, indicating that circle hooks would reduce overall mortality. In one trial, however, circle hooks reduced catches of target species to such a degree that their use was impractical. I conclude, therefore, that circle hooks have the potential to reduce the mortality of sea turtles captured in many (but not all) pelagic longline fisheries, but that they should be field tested in a rigorous experiment before they are required in any fishery. Circle hooks will not reduce mortality rates of sea turtles in every pelagic longline fishery; each case needs to be tested before this measure is adopted. Circle hooks reduce turtle mortality because of their shape and size and the ways that these parameters interact with the size of turtles interacting with the fishery. Circle hooks may cause a reduction in turtle mortality by decreasing the incidence of hook ingestion as well as reducing capture rate, particularly for loggerhead sea turtles. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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