In my last post, we left off at the controversy of using barbless circle hooks. This post I wanted to take a closer look at the benefits of barbless circle hooks and their application in fishing.
In Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Tokunaga Store sponsors an annual Ulua Challenge, a sub category of which is the “barbless circle hook challenge”. In their description of the challenge they state
“The National Marine Fisheries Service has conducted side-by-side research that proved that a barbless circle hook is just as successful in hooking a fish as a barbed circle hook.”
“Overall, research shows that circle hooks improve catch rates and reduce hooking mortality which results in positive impacts on exploited fish stocks”.
Additionally, there are even some very convincing articles that explain why using a barbless hook actually makes it easier to hook a fish due to the lower resistance in hooking (a better hook set). I will leave that to the experts to debate. (but if you are interested in reading more about it, I’ve included some links to get you started below and in this text.)
The idea that barbless circle hooks are an invention of conservationists alone is a bit of rubbish. The greatest proponents I’ve seen have actually been fishermen. Why is that? Because protecting fish in Hawaii means they are able to reproduce, ensuring there will be fish in the future. Caring for fish populations is not only a conservationist concern, it is important to fishermen, spearfishers, divers, and even the reef. In an article in Recycled Fish, Kurt Kawamoto, manager of the NOAA Barbless Circle Hook project points out that barbless circle hooks actually help far more fish than seals, turtles or sharks -which makes perfect sense as fishermen interact with far more fish than other animals. So this is not just a conservation issue as some anglers think – its about looking after the future of fishing as a sport as well.
“What we do as anglers, including using barbless circle hooks, can have a tremendous and positive affect on fish. Using barbless circle hooks also has a positive impact on wildlife; it is not only an act of conservation, it is also an act that helps preserve and steward our cultural heritage.” –Recycled Fish
In summary, barbless circle hooks reduce injury and mortality of released fishes by
- reducing tissue damage and handling stress because hooks are removed quickly and easily
- fast hook removal reduces the time the fish is out of water
- being able to self-shed the hook if the fish breaks free before the hook is removed
And yes, conservation
Conservation goes hand in hand with stewardship. While conservation of sharks, turtles and monk seals doesn’t directly impact fishing stock, it does impact the health of the reef which is intimately entwined with fish stock. It is quite clear that barbless circle hooks do far less damage to mistakenly hooked marine life as well as with fish –
- It makes it much easier for fishermen to unhook the animal themselves
- They dramatically lower rates of destructive gut-hooking, leading to far lower mortality rates for endangered species like the Hawaiian Monk Seal and sea turtles
- Marine life has a far greater chance of shedding the hook unassisted – for turtles, sharks, seals and more
I hope you found this as interesting as I did when researching it. If your interest is at least piqued, won’t you join me in raising awareness of these fish hook impacts? Tell your friends, start a discussion with fishermen, show them your support for barbless circle hooks! Use some of the links below too.
To help raise awareness we are offering Barbless Circle Hook Bracelets for men and women in the shop, with between 10-20% of profits donated to conservation organisations. They make wonderful gifts to both people who fish as well as any ocean-loving person! Feel free to comment or join the conversation below, on Instagram or on Facebook (see links up to the right and below)
Mahalo for your help!
“I’m gonna keep using barbless hooks no matter what. With the number of times I put a hook in one part of me or other in a year it’s not so much a fish welfare issue, it’s a ME welfare issue” – Bill Sawynok
As a lay person, I make no pretence to know about fishing! But i found these convincing, so if you are interested, here are some articles discussing barbless circle hooks: