Smart hook – smart economics

Continuing the marine theme for today, I was pleased to see an article in a recent edition of Seafood NZ magazine about a clever invention to prevent seabirds like albatross getting hooked on tuna long-lines. It’s called a Smart Hook. Birds (and turtles) see a baited hook being launched off the back of a boat as an easy meal and Metiria has noted: “In New Zealand waters, up to 10,000 albatross and petrels drown on tuna long lines each year.”

So what is a Smart Hook?

Fisher-turned-inventor Hans Jussiet explains the shield and dissolvable pin that covers baited-hooks as they are launched in this video from an ABC TVshow. Once the shielded hook sinks below the depth of seabirds and turtles, the pin dissolves and the shield is released. Clever.


The shield falls to the seafloor and its untreated metal rusts within a year. I’d be keen to see a bit more environmental impact analysis of raining metal pieces onto the seafloor, but hopefully it’s OK. Are there any marine scientists reading frog?

Innovation and regulation – like hook and shield

I’m impressed by the dedication to reducing the toll that fishing methods like long-lining take on marine animals like albatross, and clever “prevention” approach (rather than just “mitigation”). Innovation complements regulation. Application of clever ideas like this is good for the environment and the economy – ensuring we have a long-term sustainable fishery and markets for our fish.

What say you, dear readers?

5 Comments Posted

  1. In an effort to provide a clearer perspective on the Smart Hook, the following information is offered. Not sure what the metal pollution issue is? The shields are steel (a natural product made from iron & carbon) which will have dissolved back into the environment within 12 months. There have been no environmental issues with steel ships as artificial reefs or other ships sunk except for the accidental oil pollution. The pin is an alloy made up of natural materials also and is completely dissolved leaving nothing behind from a natural reaction that happens between the two elements. The environment has been a priority consideration with this product innovation and development. The costs have been minimised to ensure it is economical, in fact the use will negate the need to use hundreds of tonnes of lead in their lead swivels, which is lost in their fishing gear and into the ocean environment every year. Its use will also increase bait retention to catch more fish so it could be cost neutral or even profitable to use it. Turtles are also hooked during the setting process as the bait drifts down through the water column, the shield ensures the bait is taken beyond their feeding range quickly, they are caught during the soaking period on shallow set gear. Authorities can put into place administrative monitoring/surveillance, monitor the use by the types of hooks used and number of shields purchased. There is also the use of video observation being used in fisheries.
    Yes there are alternatives, but none that take so much of the environment, fishing practice, several species, and provide benefits to the fishermen, into account in a one system.

  2. Partly agreeing with “birds”, I’d want a plan for retrieving the shields.

    I’d also want to know what the pins are made of, how it measures depth, and what its ecological fate is.

  3. Great to see efforts to avoid or reduce the killing of albatross. In addition to the intrinsicaly high level of undesirable metal pollution (as hundreds of millions of longline hooks are set each year globally), some other problems would include the daily cost to fishers of thousands of throwaway “shields” will be a disincentive to use them; turtles get caught while longlines are “soaking” rather than (like albatross) when they are being set so unless the line is set too deep for them they will still be caught; and how will authorities know if fishers are using them without expensive monitoring or surveillance? There are other innovative approaches being developed to avoid or reduce seabird and turtle bycatch that look more promising.

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