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  WWF website 26 Sep 05
WWF hooks up with Norwegian fishing company to save marine turtles

Gjøvik, Norway – WWF is working with Mustad, the world’s largest manufacturer of fishing hooks, to reduce the accidental catch of millions of marine turtles.

By producing circle hooks for commercial fishermen, WWF and Mustad hope to reduce the accidental catch of turtles by as much as 90 per cent.

According to WWF, accidental catch — or bycatch — is probably the single greatest threat to marine turtles. As many as 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherback turtles are caught annually by commercial long-line tuna, swordfish, and similar fisheries.

“Circle hooks are an easy and effective solution that contribute to saving turtles, while normal fishing activity can be upheld,” said Rasmus Hansson, CEO of WWF-Norway. “We do not want the fishermen to stop fishing, so it is important that companies like Mustad take responsibility and create viable alternatives.

” The circle hook has proven to be better than the traditionally-used “J” shaped hook, which can be snagged by turtles, leading to suffocation or internal bleeding if swallowed. The circle hook is also designed not to damage fish. “Circle hooks also result in better catch,” added Hansson. “Dependent on water depth, shape and type of fish, the circle hooks normally give 20 per cent more catch than the J-hooks.”

Mustad has developed circle hooks for the last 60 years and is now leading the fishing hook industry with new, specially designed products which are already being used in several markets.

Today, for example, it is forbidden to use anything but circle hooks for commercial line fishing in the United States. Additionally, many sports fishermen use circle hooks to avoid bycatch, particularly when fishing for swordfish, tuna, sailfish, and blue marlin, and species that are normally released after being caught.

Due to its design, the circle hook from Mustad only fastens itself at the side of the mouth of the fish, where it can easily be removed and the fish released.

Mustad is providing WWF with 250,000 circle hooks to be distributed to WWF projects in areas where turtle bycatch present a serious problem. This includes working with fishermen in Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, and Ecuador.

Additionally, Mustad wants WWF to test how these circle hooks reduce the by-catch of sea birds, which in many areas of the world is as big a problem as turtle bycatch. “If we are to ensure the continued survival of turtles, we must work to transform fisheries around the world to make long-line fishing more turtle-friendly,” said Katherine Short, a fisheries officer with WWF's Global Marine Programme.

"Wherever there is fishing, there is bycatch, one of the greatest and most pervasive threats to the marine environment in general, and marine turtles in particular. We must work with local partners and the fishing industry to minimize by-catch to the greatest extent possible."

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