We examine the impact on pelagic fish hooking survival rates (defined as the proportion of fish alive upon gear retrieval) of the rapid switch from J-hooks to circle hooks that was required of the US pelagic longline fishery operating in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico after August 2004. Our focus was on 12 fish taxa that are commonly caught as bycatch or retained for the market, and for which individual disposition (live or dead) information was available from 1992 to 2010. To test the hypothesis of no change in survival before vs after the circle hook rule went into effect, we utilized a repeated measures logistic regression approach which accounted for variation in several operational, environmental, and biological covariates, including bait, fishery target, fishing zone, soak duration, water temperature, maximum fishing depth, and fish size (length). For white marlin and albacore, results were mixed, with both increases and decreases in hooking survival varying by fishing zone. For blue shark and lancetfish, no significant differences in hooking survival were detected between the pre-and post-circle hook rule time periods. However, for the remaining eight taxa (swordfish, yellowfin tuna, dolphinfish, bigeye tuna, escolar, silky shark, blue marlin, and sailfish), significant increases in survival were evident. Our results are generally consistent with previous experimental and fishery observer longline studies which suggested circle hook use has the potential to increase hooking survival. Results imply that the 2004 circle hook rule has provided increased opportunities for: (1) live release for several bycatch species; and (2) improved quality (and perhaps prices) of targeted and incidentally-caught taxa that are retained for the market.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science