Asda bids to save turtle – with help from Young's –

Asda bids to save turtle – with help from Young’s Published:  14 February, 2007

ASDA, which has recently angered many UK fishermen by banning monkfish from its stores, has today launched an initiative to save the marine turtle, which also involves seafood processors Young’s of Grimsby.

The Leeds-based supermarket group has teamed up with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and fishermen in Sri Lanka in a bid to rescue thousands of endangered marine turtles accidentally snagged by longline fishing hooks each year.

As a result of the initiative, Asda claims that more than 30,000 circular ‘turtle friendly’ hooks are being implemented by a fleet of seven longline fishing vessels in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).

The new circular hooks have replaced traditional “J” shaped hooks that snag turtles or can be swallowed by them, leading to suffocation or internal bleeding. If the trial is successful, ASDA will work with its supplier, Young’s Seafood, to investigate ways of making even more hooks available to other boats in the Sri Lankan fleet.

According to recent studies, accidental catch – or bycatch – is one of the greatest threats to marine turtles. Scientists estimate a quarter of a million loggerheads and leatherbacks are affected each year.

Dr Chris Brown, who is head of ASDA’s sustainable sourcing said: “Unfortunately wherever there is fishing there is bycatch, so we have to do everything we can to minimise the impact of how we fish.

“The new circle shaped hooks are much less likely to be swallowed by turtles, and are easier to unhook if they become snagged – so we are confident this trial will be a success.

“It is also extremely cost effective for fishermen to introduce as it improves the number of fish they catch.”

Peter Richardson, species policy officer of the MCS added: “The development of the circular hooks by US scientists and fishermen has been the turtle conservation success story of the decade.

“Surveys by our conservation partners in Sri Lanka indicate that fishery bycatch is a significant threat to the turtle populations there. With widespread and correct application in Sri Lanka, the introduction of these hooks could result in a 90% reduction in the number of turtles accidentally caught by Sri Lanka’s longline fisheries.”

“While the 30,000 hooks distributed in Sri Lanka represents only a fraction of the hooks needed to turn the bycatch situation around there, MCS is extremely encouraged that two of the major players in the industry are taking such an exemplary step in the right direction to make these fisheries more environmentally sustainable.”

Dr Brown added: “We hope other retailers will follow our lead so together we can protect the quarter of million turtles that are needlessly killed or injured each year.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Leatherback turtle numbers have plummeted because of unsustainable fishing practices, egg poaching and damage to their nesting beaches by tourism. The species has declined by more than 95% in the last 20 years. They claim part of the cause is the often unintentional killing of marine turtles on hooks and nets set by fishermen. This is compounded by harvesting turtles and their eggs for food by coastal communities.

Development along shore areas also creates light pollution that can seriously disorient young hatchlings on their way to the sea. Turtle numbers have plummeted to the point where fewer than 2,000 females are now found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. By converting just two fishing vessels to turtle-friendly gear and techniques, 200 juvenile and adult marine turtles could be saved each year. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.