Stainless Steel/Alloy Hooks, Discarded/Lost Fishing Line and Recreational Fishing

Quick link: Read the FFC Environmental Statement Regarding Discarded/Lost Fishing Line, Stainless Steel/Alloy Hooks and Fishing

The issue of destructive fishing practices is of major concern to Fishers For Conservation. FFC is focussing on two aspects of the problem with this education campaign and our Environmental Statement.

A Manta ray with a hook lodged in its 'wing', marine mammals like Sealions and Dolphins are also threatened by lost or abandoned tackle

Discarded/Lost fishing line

Litter and other marine debris causing damage to marine wildlife is a serious issue. Fishing line discarded from boats, beaches, jetties or anywhere else can remain in the aquatic environment for very long periods of time continuing to kill or injure marine life.

Stainless Steel/Alloy hooks

Strong (though brittle) and relatively rust free stainless steel or alloy hooks may seem like a good idea to some recreational fishers. Those who take the time to consider the long term effects of these hooks on marine life soon realise that there are cheaper and more sensible alternatives. The negative effects of rust resistant hooks on marine wildlife are generally accepted by those in the know, however the impacts are not widely understood by the general public. SS/alloy hooks are still readily available to recreational and commercial fishers.

The fishing tackle we use can have an unintended and negative impact on marine wildlife. There are simple steps that we can take to help minimise the problem. Standard hooks will not rust if rinsed of salt water and stored correctly, so why use stainless hooks? Fishing line is easily bundled up and disposed of thoughtfully so why let it go into the environment where it can undermine the future of fishing and damage wildlife?

Consider the following points:

  • Discarded or lost fishing line remains in the aquatic environment for extended periods where it entangles injures and kills fish, birds and marine mammals horribly, unnecessarily and repeatedly.
  • Lost stainless steel hooks remain in fish and other wildlife and the environment for longer where they can kill again and again. Normal metal hooks rust quickly in a fish's stomach and more rapidly than stainless in the marine environment causing less damage to wildlife.
  • Fishing line is easily collected and disposed of thoughtfully.
  • Stainless steel hooks are more expensive than alternatives.

Fishers For Conservation recommends that fishers never discard fishing line into the environment, avoid the loss of tackle and attempt to recover as much lost tackle as possible when is reasonable and safe to do so. See our tips for minimising tackle loss for more information. Fishers For Conservation recommends the use of alternatives to stainless steel and rust resistant alloy hooks.

What can you do to help?

Please if you currently use rust resistant hooks dispose of them thoughtfully and consider other alternatives when next at the tackle store. Never deliberately release fishing line into the water or along the coast – always collect unwanted line and dispose of thoughtfully. Read our Tips regarding avoiding fishing line loss and disposing of fishing line

Please add your voice (and the voice of your business, organisation or community group) to the campaign by reading and signing our “Environmental Statement Regarding Discarded/Lost Fishing Line, Stainless Steel/Alloy Hooks and Fishing”.

A nudibranch (sea slug) traverses a bed of fishing line

Other Australian groups that already support avoiding the use of SS and other rust-resistant hooks (i.e. prior to the environmental statement release):

Seabird Rescue Australia, Native Fish Australia, WA Fisheries Dept.,

Seal and Sea Lion pups have the curiosity of a cat, a baited shiny hook is a very welcoming 'something' to have a look at, mouth and play with - the consequences can be fatal if swallowed. A hook that does'nt break down could pierce the throat, become stuck, and when food is swallowed over a period of time, could create a tear, which undoubtedly would kill the pup in a slow and agonising way. Our marine mammals can't go to the doctor like we can to have a caught hook cut out.

If a mother Sea Lion eats a fish with a stainless steel hook embedded, not only could it perforate her stomach or her bowel lining and kill her....if a mother is lost, her young at home will also be lost. So not only is there a secondary factor with stainless steel hooks - there is a third. Fact: If a Sea Lion mother dies, no other mother will nurse her pup. The pup will starve to death. It will take around three weeks for the pup to deteriorate and die from starvation.

Not only do the marine mammals and bird life on our shores suffer from hook and line entanglement, but so do the roo's that use our beaches. Cast off line and hooks, especially hooks that don't corrode away, can entangle around a kangaroo's leg, causing severe injury, with the end game being the long and painful eventual and unnatural amputation of the leg....some may say "it's just a roo"...... they also have a right to survive in peace.

Causes of bird injury (source: Australian Seabird Rescue) 92% Entanglement with fishing tackle 4% Collision with powerlines and boats 2% Disease 1% Shooting, vandalism 1% Swallowing foreign objects/pollution

Extract from: The impact of recreational fishing on estuarine bird life on the far North coast of NSW. May 2004, full paper available here.

"It is the stainless steel and alloy hooks which resist rust, that remain of great concern. If an injured animal dies, it is likely to be scavenged by other fauna and the hook may lodge in the scavenger resulting in a perpetuating ‘domino-effect’ of wildlife deaths.

It is the opinion of the Ballina ASR that due to the extended life of stainless steel or alloy fishing tackle that the practice of using alloy or stainless steel hooks should be discouraged. These hooks remain intact, indefinitely, if embedded in the body of a bird and are a significant cause of serious, if not fatal infection."

Note: Australian Seabird Rescue point out that far more pelicans are entangled by active fishers than by line not lost activly fishing - try not to hook birds and if you do make all efforts to recover the line.

Native Fish Australia recommend "Do not use stainless steel hooks. Stainless steel hooks do not dissolve in the stomach acids of fish when they are gut-hooked" .

WA Fisheries state: "Avoid the use of stainless steel hooks - they take longer to rust out." e.g.;

"Avoid using stainless steel hooks as they take longer to corrode if left in the fish." Casselman, S. J. 2005. Catch-and-release angling: a review with guidelines for proper fish handling practices. Fish & Wildlife Branch. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Peterborough, Ontario. 26 p.

Read a story about a seagull rescue at Port Lincoln and comments regarding SS hooks submitted by a FFC member

Tips regarding avoiding fishing line loss and disposing of fishing line

Disposing of fishing line

Unwanted fishing line should be bundled up and tied together or placed in a holding bag for transport to recycling or rubbish bins. Line that is put into landfill can still entangle animals.

If suitable tools are available, line can be cut into small bits minimising entanglement risks. Line can be wrapped/bundled and tied to make it smaller and reduce entanglement risk.

Placing unwanted line into bags can also contain it and minimise risk.

Avoiding fishing line loss

Never use old and brittle line – not only will you lose the fish you are trying to catch, but the line lost when it breaks may hurt other aquatic life unnecessarily.

When cutting line to release deeply hooked fish do so as close to the hook as safely possible.

Use line strengths appropriate to the area/species fished.

Do not leave lines unattended.