A comparison of circle hook and J hook performance in a western equatorial Atlantic Ocean pelagic longline fishery
Catch composition, catch rates, hooking location, and status at release at haulback were monitored during 81 experimental sets (launches and hauling fishing per day) in a commercial pelagic longline fishery targeting tuna in the equatorial South Atlantic Ocean. Circle hooks (size 18/0, 0 degree offset) and J-style hooks (size 9/0, 10 degree offset) with squid baits were deployed in an alternating fashion. The catch composition was not significantly different for most species between the two types of hooks, except for bigeye tuna, which showed a significantly higher proportion of catches on the circle hook (p much greater than 0.001) and for sailfish, pelagic stingray, and leatherback sea turtle, which had higher catch rates on the J-style hook (p=0.018, p much greater-than 0.001, and p=0.044, respectively). Bigeye and yellowfin tuna showed significantly higher rates of survival at the time of gear retrieval with circle hooks, and circle hooks hooked bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, and sailfish significantly more often externally than internally. Our results suggest that the use of size 18/0, 0 degree offset circle hooks in the equatorial pelagic longline fishery may increase the survival of bycatch species at the time of gear retrieval with minimal effects on the catches of target species.