FAST program is launched to protect sea turtles

Fishermen can help hooked turtles by cutting the line as close to the hook as possible. The hook should be removed only if it can be done without injury to the turtle. Photo courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

05/30/14

By Lt. j.g. Eric Galassi, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

A new interagency program created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the state of Hawaii aims to promote methods of protecting sea turtles from injuries caused by fishhooks or entanglement.

The program is called Fishing Around Sea Turtles or FAST, and it emphasizes the phrase “It’s OK to help!” This program relies on advice from experienced fisherman and local experts who can provide suggestions to minimize the chances of harming sea turtles while fishing.

FAST was started to inform potential fisherman about tips that can be used to avoid accidentally hooking sea turtles while fishing and what to do when a sea turtle has been hooked or entangled. In the case of a hooked turtle, FAST encourages the fisherman to “reel-in the turtle carefully, hold it by its shell or flippers, cut the line as close to the hook as possible, and release with no (or as little) gear/line attached.”

Other tips include fishing with live bait which will attract big fish, while sea turtles more often go for dead fish, eels, octopus or squid. People should avoid cleaning their catch in harbors or piers where turtles might eat the waste and become accustomed to being fed and therefore more likely to eat bait from a hook. Fishermen are asked to use barbless circle hooks when fishing and follow Hawaii fishing regulations. Anyone who sees illegal activity, including the use of gillnets, should report it to 643-DLNR (3567).

For more information and tips on how to prevent or reduce the chances of –interactions, visit the FAST program at http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_fishing_ around_sea_turtles.html.

To share feedback, provide suggestions or if you have other sea turtles concerns, contact Irene Kelly, NOAA Fisheries at Irene.Kelly@noaa.gov. To report an injured or dead turtle on Oahu, call 725-5730.

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