The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

(202) 293-4800

Fishing Technology That's Letting Turtles Off the Hook


Alternative fishing technology has been shown to save turtles while
not affecting fish catches, according to a report released today by
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna
Commission (IATTC).

The report demonstrates how changing from the
classic J hook to circular hooks, providing adequate training and tools
to release turtles accidentally hooked and enhancing sustainable
fishing practices, can dramatically reduce incidental catch (bycatch)
of marine turtles without impacting fishing activity.

results keep demonstrating that changing to circular hooks is the right
choice, since it favors turtle conservation without having an impact on
the economy of artisanal fisheries. Together with fishermen we are
building a culture for sustainable fishing practices that will
guarantee fish stocks in the long term," said Moises Mug, Coordinator
of the WWF Bycatch Initiative for the Eastern Pacific.

The report - Bycatch Initiative: Eastern Pacific Program, A Vehicle Towards Sustainable Fisheries-
is a comprehensive analysis of data collected during four years of work
in eight different countries in the Eastern Pacific - Mexico, Panama,
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

goal is to reduce the incidental catch of marine turtles from the
long-line fishing operations without affecting the fisheries activity
which is a main source of food and income for local communities,"
explained Martin Hall, Principal Researcher for the IATTC.

program was carried out with the voluntary participation of nearly
1,300 fishermen, conducting over 1,400 fishing trips on 305 artisanal
fishing boats. Data gathered by independent on-board observers show an
overall significant trend of bycatch reduction for both, TBS (tuna,
billfishes and sharks) and mahi-mahi fisheries, with reductions up to
89% in the marine turtle bycatch per thousand hooks; 95% of all turtles
caught in long-line fishing were recovered alive; and circle hooks
performed as well as J hooks in the catch rates of tuna, billfishes and
sharks fishery.

"This program is going beyond an initial focus of
saving sea turtles from bycatch, and is creating the groundwork toward
sustainable artisanal long-line fishing in the Eastern Pacific," said
Kim Davis, Marine Fisheries Program Deputy Director at World Wildlife

"By working co-operatively, collecting data and learning how
to improve practices, this program is living proof that conservation
and industry can work together for sustainability."

World Wildlife Fund is the largest multinational conservation organization in the world, works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.