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August 10, 2005

WWF and MUSTAD save turtles

Sea turtles are one of the oldest creatures on earth, but today most of them are threatened by extinction. Every year more than a quarter of a million turtles die because they get caught in nets and hooks. Fishing with circle hooks rather than the usual J-hook reduces the risk of by catching turtle by 90 percent.

Sea turtles are one of the oldest creatures on earth, but today most of them are threatened by extinction. Every year more than a quarter of a million turtles die because they get caught in nets and hooks. Fishing with circle hooks rather than the usual J-hook reduces the risk of by catching turtle by 90 percent.

Already 100 years ago professional fishermen in Australia knew how to avoid hooks from getting caught in the coral bottom of the sea. WWF and Mustad now use this ancient knowledge to save turtles around the world.

-        The fishermen in Australia had problems with the hooks getting caught in the corals, and they were getting a lot of unwanted by catch, such as turtles. Then they started to bend their hooks inward, not to get so easily caught in the corals, tells Geir Sivertzen, product developer for Mustad. - The results were overwhelming. No only did they avoid getting caught in the corals - they also got a lot more fish.


Circle hooks save turtles
Six out of seven species of sea turtles are today threatened by extinction, and the largest threat is involuntarily by catch when fishing with lines and nets. When a turtle first is hooked, there is a great likelihood it will either drown, or get so damaged by the hook that it dies even when released. The solution in modern times is the same as 100 years ago: using bended circle hooks rather than normal J-hooks.

-        Circle hooks are an easy and effective solution that contribute to saving turtles while normal fishing activity can be upheld, says 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. WWF appreciates this new cooperation with Mustad.

Mustad have developed circle hooks through 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 it is forbidden to use anything but circle hooks for commercial line fishing in the US. Also sports fishermen must usually use circle hooks to avoid by catch like swordfish, tuna, sailfish and Blue Marlin, species that are normally released after being caught.


250,000 circle hooks to WWF projects
The problem in areas where the sea turtles is most threatened as by catch, is that the fishermen usually are poor and lack new equipment and technology. Therefore Mustad have provided WWF with 250 000 circle hooks to be distributed through WWF projects in areas where by catch of turtles are a big problem, such as Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea and Ecuador.

Additionally Mustad wants WWF to test how these circle hooks also give less by catch of sea birds, which in many areas is as big a problem as by catch of turtles.


Less damage and more fish
In addition to reduce by catch of turtles by approximately 90 percent, the circle hooks are designed not to unnecessary damage the fish itself. The fish won't swallow the hook, thus it will not get caught in organs inside the fish when removed. 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.

Circle hooks also result in better catch. Dependent on water depth, shape and type of fish, the circle hooks normally give 20 percent more catch than the usual J-hooks. When fishing tuna, halibut and other deep sea fish the circle hooks are superior.

More information:

Rasmus Hansson, CEO WWF-Norge, mobile: +47 90 68 63 13

E-mail: rhansson@wwf.no
Maren Esmark, Marine coordinator, WWF-Norge,
mobile: +47 97 18 33 79

E-mail: mesmark@wwf.no
Roar Johansen, product manager commercial fishing Mustad,
mobile: +47 99 15 89 60

E-mail: roar.johansen@mustad.no
Geir Sivertzen, product developer Mustad,
mobile: +47 91 77 90 24; E-mail: geir.sivertzen@mustad.no

Mustad is the world's leading producer of fishing hooks with nearly 1200 employees worldwide, of which 335 is based in Norway. Mustad have factories in Gjøvik (Norway), Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Portugal and Kina. www.mustad.no

WWF is the largest and most influential nature conservation organisation with more than 5 million supporters worldwide and more than 4000 employees. WWF work in 100 countries to stop environmental degradation and to conserve the world's biological diversity. WWF´s goal is to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.  www.wwf.no and www.panda.org


Facts about sea turtles:
Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth - they have survived here for more than 100 million years. Sea turtles are reptiles which lye eggs and spend most of their lives in open waters. Some species live of fish, shellfish and jellyfish, while others eat sea grass and algae.  Sea turtles lie eggs in the sand on the beach, and it may take up to two months before the eggs hatch. Today the sea turtles are threatened by several factors:

-        Turtles drown because they get caught in fish hooks and nets.

-        Beaches are turned into hotel areas and destroyed as important hatching areas for the turtles.

-        Illegal poaching and illegal sale of turtle shell, leather and meat.

-        Eggs are being collected from the beaches.

There are seven species of sea turtles: green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, Olive Ridley sea turtle, kemp Ridley sea turtle, karett, sea leather turtle and flat back sea turtle. The sea leather turtle is the largest, as it can get almost tree meter long and weigh up to 900 kilos. This specie lives off jellyfish. For pictures and more facts on sea turtles.