Fishing with circle hooks saves marine turtles | WWF

Fishing with circle hooks saves marine turtles

Posted on
30 September 2014
Octaviano Sanchez, who has been a long-line fisherman for nearly thirty years, was the first one in Jurubira, Colombia, who dared participate in the traditional hooks exchange programme and try out the "guere-guere", the informal name for circle hooks in the region. “It captures bigger fish, and marine turtles are rarely hooked. Also, the circle hook is safer for the fisherman to manipulate and it doesn’t tangle as much in the seabed´s rocks”, said Octaviano.

Jurubirá (in the municipality of Nuqui) is a small town in the colombian pacific region. In this small town, nearly 800 inhabitants depend on fishing as their main source of income. Long-line fishing is an artisanal fishing art, traditionally used in the pacific, that consists of a motherline with several hooks to increase the capture of fish swimming in considerable depths. This kind of art is practiced by a fair amount of fishermen in the town, and in general by the artisanal fishermen of Bahia Solano and Nuqui, the two closest municipalities.

The hook exchange part a sustainable fishing programme carried out by the National Authority of Acuiculture and Fishery and WWF Colombia since 2012. The target is to get fishermen to voluntarily hand in a number of non-sustainable hooks and, in exchange, get the same number of environmentally friendly hooks.

The use of circle hooks in long-line fishing has proved its benefits for the ecosystem by considerably reducing unwanted capture of marine turtles and other marine animals such as eels. Taking into account all living and inert beings that are part of the ecosystem before carrying out fishing activities is becoming an often used strategy to promote sustainable fishing.

Circle hooks, along other management strategies in this region, such as the establishment of the Artisan Fishery Exclusive Zone, seek to improve the fishermen living conditions and, at the same time, improve the conservation of fishing resources and of the biodiversity associated to this rich region.

The hook substitution programme has been carried out along the colombian pacific since 2005 and it has accomplished the exchange of nearly 170,000 hooks, bringing benefits to over 300 fishermen. After two months of using the circle hook the fishermen “graduate” in sustainable fishing practices, such as nine of them did last July. “I and the rest of long-line fishermen here in Jurubira– feel very satisfied with the hook exchange programme and we wish it goes on”, Octaviano commented. 

Now, the Fishing Authority and other organisations related to local fisheries have to facilitate the access to circle hooks. The challenge is to make them easily available in the market and for a reazonable price. This is the best way for the fishermen in the colombian pacific coast to have access to this technology that not only benefits them but is also a lifesaver for turtles and other threatened species.

Gustavo Castellanos, WWF Marine Coastal Programme
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