Circle Hook Fishing Trials Planned for Grenada

On September 25, 2017, Caribbean Billfish Project (CBP) Coordinator Roy Bealey visited Grenada, one of the two chosen pilot countries in the CBP, to finalize the plans for circle-hook fishing trials on Grenadian longliners that primarily target tunas for export. During the four-day workshop, the benefits of using circle hooks to improve tuna export values while also starting to release hooked billfish alive were discussed amongst local longline fishers, officials of Grenada's Ministry of Fisheries, and recreational anglers.

Billfish are not currently considered bycatch within many Caribbean fleets as they provide food and revenue to many citizens. However, tunas are the preferred choice and declining billfish stocks threaten the social and environmental benefits they currently provide. All billfish species in the Atlantic have experienced overfishing for at least a decade which emphasizes the need to develop practical solutions for the Caribbean. At-sea fishing trials will help test possible solutions.

The fishing experiment trialswill compare hook types by alternating leaders with j hooks and circle hooks attached when setting longlines. Onboard observers will record the species and condition of captured fish (and other animals), alongside other collected data to compare the hook's benefits and financial performance.

Circle hooks and leader adjustment gears have arrived in Grenada and the trials are expected to commence next month when flying fish are abundant and can be used as bait. Nova Southeastern University's Dr. Kerstetter will advise and provide recommendations and support throughout the data collection process. If using circle hooks increases tuna catches, this may reduce the incentive for fishers to target billfish as well as subsidize some of the compensation cost required to support future billfish live releases. Live billfish releases could allow Grenada’s fleet to remain within ICCAT quotas in the future, and promote sustainable billfish harvests as well as increased recreational fishery values.

The Caribbean Billfish Project is a component of the GEF-funded, World Bank implemented, Ocean Partnership for Sustainable Fisheries and Biodiversity Conservation Models for Innovation and Reform (ABNJ) Project, and is being executed by the Secretariat of WECAFC at the Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).