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Wait, a Fishing Hook That Sets Tuna Free?

These new "weak hooks" bend enough to give a greater percentage of the Gulf's bluefin tuna a fighting chance when they're caught accidentally.

If everyone in New York took one or two bites of otoro—the prized belly cut of bluefin tuna—it would probably be enough to wipe the species out of the Atlantic, bringing the prospect of peak tuna one step closer to reality. Making matters worse, bluefin tuna breed in the Gulf of Mexico, and, in addition to the uncertain but undoubtedly harmful consequences of last year's oil spill, they're being caught accidentally by longliners fishing for your canned light tuna (yellowfin) and swordfish.

Now, a technological breakthrough could help the species: a new fishing hook design. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will require "weak hooks," which bend enough to allow a greater percentage of the Gulf's bluefins a fighting chance. As Anne Eisenberg of The New York Times reports:

Hook design alone won’t save the world’s endangered sea creatures, said John E. Graves, a professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Va., but he added that the new product is a good idea.... “It’s not a magic bullet,” he said of the new hook, but he observed that “it turns out that the hook type you use can have a huge impact on survival.”


The Pew Charitable Trust says that more selective fishing methods—buoys and sticks—might offer even better alternatives. For now, though, the hooks are a small part of the very large effort needed to protect our oceans.

Photo: NOAA via The New York Times.

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