Effects of hook and bait in a tropical northeast Atlantic pelagic longline fishery: Part II—Target, bycatch and discard fishes
The incidental bycatch of sea turtle in tuna and swordfish fisheries is currently recognized as one of the major threats to the populations of these species. Therefore a number of mitigation measures have been tested, particularly for longline fisheries targeting swordfish. As mitigation measures may also affect the fish catches, it is important to quantify these impacts both at the ecological and socio-economic levels. Between August 2008 and December 2011, a total of 202 experimental pelagic longline sets were carried out in the Tropical Northeast Atlantic Ocean. The combination J-hook baited with squid (traditionally used by the fishery) was compared against two circle hooks (one non-offset and one with 10° offset) and mackerel bait. Catches per unit effort (CPUE) were calculated and compared between the different hook style and bait combinations for all target, bycatch and discarded fish species. In addition, a GLM (generalized linear model) was applied for swordfish Xiphias gladius and blue shark Prionace glauca (two main target species) and bigeye thresher Alopias superciliosus (most discarded species). The swordfish catches were negatively affected when changing from the traditional gear (J-style hooks baited with squid) to one of the experimental combinations, with the bait type having a stronger influence than the hook style on this reduction. However, the overall target species CPUE and the value of the retained catch (VPUE, value per unit of effort) were not significantly affected, due to an increase on the blue shark CPUE. Furthermore, the hook style and the bait type did not seem to influence the at-haulback mortality rates of most discarded species, which were highly species-specific. Given the apparent lack of impact on the overall value of the retained catch, the use of circle hooks baited with mackerel on this particular fishery and region would be highly beneficial for sea turtle conservation, without affecting the economic viability of the fishery.