Use of Barbless Circle Hooks by Hawaii Shoreline Fishers Helps the Conservation of Fishery Resources and Protected Species

June 16, 2007

The Barbless circle hook weigh-in station at the Tokunaga Ulua Challenge 2006 is staffed by Mark Mitsuyasu (Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council), Shawn Murakawa (NOAA Fisheries) and Clay Tam (Hawaii Dept of Aquatic Resources).
Randall Elarco Jr shows off his "once in a lifetime" 117 lb white ulua caught on a barbless circle hook given away free by NOAA Fisheries.
First ulua caught using a barbless circle hook being weighed in at the Tokunaga Ulua Challenge 2006.

In recent years our society has identified a need to reduce human interactions with protected species in the marine environment, including the sea turtles and monk seals that frequent Hawaii's nearshore waters. There is no group of marine conservationists more concerned and enthusiastic about this responsibility than Hawaii's shoreline and small-boat recreational fishing community. They have learned that by using barbless circle hooks instead of ordinary barbed fishing hooks, they can help reduce the severity of injuries to the fish they catch and release and any protected species they happen to hook accidentally and cut loose from the line. The barbless hooks give the animal a better chance of quickly ridding itself of the hook, even without human intervention.

In 2004, several scientists at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) began a project to increase the awareness and use of barbless circle hooks by Hawaii's shoreline fishermen. The program has been a big success due to the enthusiastic support and active participation of the fishing community.

The goals of the Barbless Circle Hook Project are to:

  • promote fishers' awareness of the protected species conservation issue and provide practical ways to mitigate interactions with these animals;
  • get fishers to try using barbless circle hooks; and
  • educate the public about how fishing and protected species can coexist.

In the last two years, PIFSC biologists Kurt Kawamoto and Bert Kikkawa have visited dozens of shoreline fishing outings and tournaments on several islands, collecting data on the use of barbless hooks and distributing information to interested fishers. In its first three years, the project distributed over 35,000 barbless circle hooks throughout Hawaii.