Note: The similarly named 'Smart Hook' is a hook designed to deter sharks from approaching longline baits; see 'Magnetic, E+ metals and Electrical deterrents'.
The premise of the Smart Tuna Hook system is that it prevents hooking of seabirds and turtles during line setting by protecting a baited hook with a metal shield, which is held in place with a biodegradable pin. The pin dissolves once the hook is below the feeding depth of seabirds (25 m) and turtles (100 m). Once the pin dissolves, the shield is released and the baited hook is ready for fishing. The shield and the pin are both made of a metal alloy which dissolves, leaving no contaminants.
There are two components to the system - the hook and the shield. The Smart Tuna Hook is a modified tuna longline hook made to the size and pattern (including circle hooks) required by the fisher. It attaches to branch lines in the same way as regular tuna hooks and lasts just as long. The single-use Smart Hook Shield is applied manually (no applicator required) to the baited Smart Hook.
The Smart Tuna Hook has been assessed by ACAP (September 2017) and included in their list of best practice measures for mitigating bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries . This is conditional upon the device meeting certain performance requirements, noted below:
‘Smart Tuna Hook’ – 40 g minimum weight that is positioned at the hook, encapsulating the barb and point of the hook during setting, and remains attached for a minimum period of 10 minutes after setting, when the hook is released.
An Australian Fisheries Management Authority funded pilot study  evaluated the efficacy of the system in mitigating seabird and turtle bycatch in a longline fishery. The system was found to be very effective at preventing seabirds and turtles from being hooked when setting baited longlines, using a range of bait (fish and squid) and hook types.
Assessment of the operational performance of the system in a commercial fishing operation was positive. Setting time did not increase and the system was perceived to improve both the ease of casting and bait retention (bait retained on the hook when casting and entering the water). Promising increases in bait sink rates were demonstrated and similarly, an increase in catch rates of target species was noted. The increase in sink rates may eliminate the need for lead sinkers, which would reduce gear costs and improve fisher safety (where snapped branch lines can turn sinkers into missiles).
The pilot study concludes that a more extensive evaluation of the system under commercial fishing operations is needed. Should the system be proved successful on a large scale, it may enable access for fishing vessels to restricted regions where, for example, night-time setting is stipulated, and areas currently closed to fishing, e.g., due to their delineation as seabird or turtle hotspots. It may reduce or eliminate the need for multiple mitigation methods, e.g., Tori lines plus line weighting.
Thus the Smart Tuna Hook system shows promise for increasing economic returns to fishers while reducing or eliminating incidental catch of seabirds and turtles.
for further information.