The Latest NYT “Scientist at Work” blog follows a sea turtle researcher, Lekelia “Kiki” Jenkins, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, as she travels to Ecuador to study factors in the cross-cultural adoption of sea turtle conservation technologies like turtle excluder devices and circle hooks.
Here’s an excerpt from her first post, including a great explanation of how circle hooks help sea turtles, and why turtles are like 40-year-old virgins:
“Some scientists estimate that a quarter of a million sea turtles are ensnared in fishing lines each year. This is truly a problem for sea turtles, which are the “40-year-old virgins” of the oceans. Turtles have a life span similar to humans, but might not start having young until they are several decades old. Dehookers and circle hooks are part of a suite of solutions that help longline fishers protect sea turtles, allowing them to mature and bear young while helping fishers continue to catch profitable tuna, swordfish and mahi-mahi.
Circle hooks are similar to the J-shaped fishing hook familiar to many people, but the hooks used in these fisheries are large, about the size of the palm of a woman’s hand. Another difference is that the tip of a circle hook points inward, looking much like a capital letter G. The circle hook helps prevent sea turtles from becoming hooked if they try to eat bait from the fishing line. If you’ve ever watched a fishing show on Saturday morning, then you’ve seen the underwater video of a fish swimming at the bait, grabbing it and swimming away. Now think about that pet turtle you had as a kid, remember how it stood in one place and chomped at its food. A circle hook takes advantage of this difference in eating behavior: The inward-pointing tip creates a flat surface that usually won’t pierce the turtle’s jaw while it chomps.”
We will definitely continue to follow Kiki’s journey to gain better protections for sea turtles in Ecuador!
Sea turtles also still need help in the U.S. You can help – tell President Obama that we need comprehensive sea turtle protections in U.S. waters.