Beginning May 5, 2011, NOAA’s Fisheries Service will require commercial fishermen who fish for yellowfin tuna, swordfish and other species with longlines in the Gulf of Mexico to use a new type of hook, called a weak hook.
The weak hook is a circular hook constructed of thin gauge wire, and is designed to straighten when a large fish, such as bluefin tuna, is hooked, releasing it but holding on to smaller fish.
Although fishing for bluefin tuna in the Gulf has been closed since the early 1980s, bluefin are caught incidentally by longliners who are fishing for yellowfin tuna.
The average size of bluefin tuna landed in the Gulf of Mexico longline fishery is 485 pounds, while the average for yellowfin tuna is about 86 pounds.
"NOAA worked with longline fishermen from the Gulf to test the weak hook carefully over the last three years," said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. "Our cooperative scientific research with fishermen is showing that this new technology can protect bluefin tuna in the Gulf while still allowing fishermen to target yellowfin tuna and swordfish."