Shark catch is a major problem in any fishery that uses hooks and is not targeting sharks. A fishing hook is not selective enough to exclude a shark in favor of a tuna. Shark ”bycatch” on longlines result in substantial apex predator mortalities, safety concerns, and adverse economic effects. The SMART Hook provides a simple tool to allow any recreational, artisinal, or commercial fisherman to reduce shark catch. Reducing shark bycatch while also reducing the inefficiencies of removing unwanted sharks from lines and repairing fishing gear leads to sustainable and efficient fishing. In controlled experiments with captive sharks (2009-2010), SMART Hooks reduced shark catch rates by 66 to 94% without affecting bony fish catch. Experiments in the Gulf of Marine (2011) showed a 28% reduction in spiny dogfish catch with slight increases in ground fish catch. An experimental gear section on a pelagic longline (200) showed a 60% reduction in silky shark catch with a slight increase in swordfish catch.
The SMART Hook reduces the unintended removal of apex predators (sharks) from the ecosystem. The SMART Hook helps to maintain populations of apex predators in the “top-down” ecosystem model, which in turn regulates populations of smaller marine life in the ecosystem.
The SMART Hook application is global, as recreational, artisinal, and commercial fishing occurs on every ocean. To date, SMART Hook sales include Canada, United States, Europe, Spain, and the Bahamas, covering an roughly estimated 100 hectares of fishing. Fishing hooks are a global commodity, and shark bycatch is a global problem. There are over 1,000 longline vessels targeting tuna or swordfish seasonally in the eight major fisheries (Gilman et al, 2007), each deploying thousands of hooks per trip. Data from the 1st Annual Circle Hook Symposium suggests that fishery researchers from universities, non-profits, and government agencies deployed more than 3.5 million hooks in the past 5 years. The Florida Sea Grant Program reported approximately 6.5 million people make more than 27 million recreational fishing trips in Florida annually.
Human Wellbeing and Livelihoods Impact
Shark repellent hooks have a positive societal impact by allowing fishermen to remain profitable in highly-regulated fisheries while reducing the bycatch mortality of apex predators in the oceans. Fishermen using the SMART Hook are able to catch more fish, less sharks, and less gear damage in exchange for a more expensive hook. Increasing the target catch by even a few additional fish, which would otherwise be occupied by sharks, offsets the additional expenses of purchasing SMART Hooks.
SharkDefense has participated in public outreach programs in Florida Keys to promote the awareness and use of the SMART Hook to recreational and commercial fisherman. In 2012, SharkDefense will be expanding its outreach presentations on the SMART Hook along the east coast of the United States.