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Fishing Around Sea Turtles
The Fishing Around Sea Turtles program promotes
co-existence between Hawaii fishermen and sea turtles through practical fishing tips, increased awareness, and best practice suggestions to assist a turtle if an accidental fishing interaction occurs.
- It's Ok to Help! Suggestions for Hawaii fishermen on how to best assist hooked and/or entangled turtles at the time an accidental interaction happens while fishing.
- Practical Fishing Tips: To promote "Turtle Friendly" fishing gear and provide practical fishing tips to prevent hookings or reduce the potential for interactions.
- Improve awareness: To disseminate Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the natural history and ecology of Hawaiian green turtles, and address common questions and misconceptions.
- Feedback is welcome! Please share how the following information and tips for "Fishing Around Sea Turtles" have or haven't worked for you. And don't forget to pick up a FREE reflective "Fishing Around Sea Turtles" tacklebox sticker at your local fishing gear store.
If you accidentally catch a turtle - it's OK to help!
Line entanglement around flippers, head or neck is the greatest threat to sea turtles from hook and line fisheries. Fisherman are encouraged – at the moment an accidental interaction occurs – to please help remove and limit the amount of line left on reefs or left trailing an animal after being cut loose.
Always remember − your personal SAFETY FIRST. Turtles are wild animals that may bite, have very strong front flippers and jaws, and are deceptively heavy so take care to not injure yourself while attempting to help them. Also please avoid causing further injury to the animal.
If you choose to help and it is safe for you and the turtle:
REEL-IN turtle with care. Please bring in the animal for disentanglement. Do the best you can to reel-in (land) the animal carefully. DO NOT drag a turtle up a cliff.
HOLD turtle by its shell and/or flippers.
CUT line close to hook as short as possible .
REMOVE the hook only if it can be done without injury to you or the turtle. If the hook barb is exposed smash the barb down to easily extract the hook and shorten the handling time of the turtle. DO NOT remove the hook if swallowed. If using a barbless hook, then the hook should easily come out.
RELEASE turtle with no line attached. Remove any line from flippers, head and neck. Help to remove any remaining line from the reef. Dispose of the line in a responsible manner.
Report Injured or Stranded Turtles
Please REPORT injured or dead turtles to the Marine Turtle Stranding Hotline
On Oahu:Neighbor islands:
Weekdays, 7AM-4PM (808) 725-5730
Weekends, holidays, after hours: (808) 288-5685 or 288-0023
Kauai: 808-725-5730, Enforcement: 274-3521 (DLNR)
Maui: 872-5190 (Kihei), 893-3172 (other areas), Enforcement: 837-3990 (DLNR)
Hawaii: 327-7780 (Hilo), 881-4200 (N. Kona), 327-6226 (S. Kona), Enforcement: 974-6208 (DLNR Hilo), 327-4962 (DLNR Kona)
Practical Fishing Tips
The following information may help to prevent hooking or reduce the potential for interactions with sea turtles when fishing.
Watch your gear and check your bait to help reduce the potential for hooking or entanglement. Checking and recasting gear after a nibble helps to reduce interactions by relocating a baited hook away from a curious turtle.
- Use 'turtle friendly' gear such as barbless circle hooks. Barbless circle hooks have been proven effective for catching fish while reducing the severity of injuries to non-target species (including turtles or seals). These hooks allow the animal a better chance of quickly ridding itself of the hook without human intervention.
You can make your own barbless circle hook by crimping the barb.
Follow the barbless circle hook program on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/barblesscirclehook
- Use live fish bait. Baits such as eel, tako, ika (squid), or dead fish are attractive to turtles. In generally the “stinkier” the bait, the more interested turtles might be in your gear. Using live fish bait is believed by some fishermen to be less attractive to turtles and hence result in fewer interactions.
- Fish sunset to sunrise. Using big game gear (for Ulua) at night, sunset to sunrise, may reduce the potential for interactions. Although interactions at night do occur, some fishermen believe they have fewer interactions with turtles at night. This theory also fits with what biologist know about sea turtle behavior as turtles appear to predominately feed during the day and sleep at night
- Clean catch away from turtles. Turtles can get accustomed to being fed and can develop an unnatural taste for fish making them more likely to take a baited hook. Take care not to inadvertently feed turtles when cleaning fish, especially in harbors and piers where fishing effort can be high.
- Review and adhere to Hawaii State fishing regulations
- Please REPORT illegal gillnets! By reporting to DLNR you are helping sea turtles, seals, fish, and fishermen: 643-DLNR (3567)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the natural history and ecology of Hawaiian green sea turtles:
- Hawaiian Green Turtle - Life History (Feb 2011, pdf 265.4 kB)
- Hawaiian Green Turtle - Nesting (Feb 2011, pdf 314.5 kB)
- Answers to Common Questions and Misperseptions - coming soon
Keep all this information close at hand while you are out fishing in Hawaii. Pick up a reflective "Fishing Around Sea Turtles" decal at Hawaii fishing or tackle stores and at fishing tournaments. Decals / best-practice guidance are intended for fishing in waters around Hawaii only.
Feedback is welcome! Please let us know how this information and tips for Fishing Around Sea Turtles have or haven't worked for you. This information helps us to improve our products, messaging, and outreach strategy to fishermen and the community.
To share your feedback about the "Fishing Around Sea Turtles" program or other sea turtle-fisherman concerns, please contact:
- NOAA Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Regional Office,
Sea Turtle Recovery Coordinator:
Irene Kelly (808) 725-5141
- Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR):
Earl Miyamoto (808) 832-5017
To share your stories about using barbless circle hooks, please contact:
NOAA Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center:
Kurt Kawamoto (808) 725-5362