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International Smart Gear Competition


Improving fishing gear is a key step in reducing bycatch. Gear modifications can increase the chances of escape for non-target species or, better yet, reduce the number caught in the first place. Simple, inexpensive innovations have proven effective in many fisheries and some of the best solutions to date have come from fishers themselves.

WWF, in partnership with industry leaders, scientists and fishers, launched the International Smart Gear Competition in 2004. Designed to inspire creative thinkers, Smart Gear is a call for innovative ideas that have practical applications for fishing “smarter”—for increasing selectivity for target fish species and reducing bycatch. The competition invites submissions of practical, cost-effective solutions to reduce fisheries bycatch, and offers cash prizes totaling $65,000.

The 2014 International Smart Gear Competition is now closed.

Why It Matters

  • The problem of bycatch

    Each year, fishing gear such as longlines, trawls and nets incidentally catch billions of marine animals that are not the fishers’ target. This bycatch is discarded—dead or dying—back into the sea.

  • Problem for fishermen

    The unintended take of non-target species is a major fisheries management problem that wastes fishermen’s time and costs hundreds of millions of dollars in damaged gear.

  • Problem for non-target species

    Bycatch causes dramatic declines in the populations of many marine species, including dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks, and other fish species.

What WWF Is Doing

Through the Smart Gear competition, WWF supports innovation in solving the problem of fisheries bycatch. The competition brings together conservation interests with industry and government for unique cross-sector collaboration.

Open to all, the competition has attracted entries from all kinds of people who care about fishing— from gear technologists and fishermen to engineers and chemists. Our international judges panel includes fisheries experts, gear technologists, fishermen, scientists, researchers and conservationists.

In addition to running the competition, WWF also helps advance the winners toward implementation by the fishing industry. This may include further modification work, additional field trials or even help in navigating bureaucratic channels.

2011 Winner: Yamazaki Double-Weight Branchline

The Yamazaki Double-Weight Branchline addresses seabird bycatch in longline tuna fisheries. The design sinks longline hooks beyond the range of seabirds, such as albatrosses and petrels, and reduces injuries and fatalities to crews caused by rapidly recoiling weights and hooks.

Yamazaki double weight branchline

The Seaqualizer increases the survival rate of fish suffering from barotrauma—when fish are pulled quickly to the surface from depth and gases within their body expand at a rapid rate. Important for recreational fishermen, the Seaqualizer allows these non-target fish to be safely returned to deep water.

Fishermen with turtle lights

Turtle Lights for Gillnets uses widely available fishing lights (LED or chemical lightsticks) to illuminate gillnets and prevent sea turtle bycatch. Trials have shown that the lights are effective at mitigating loggerheads and green turtles turtle bycatch in a coastal gillnet fishery.


The Eliminator reduces bycatch of cod, shark and skates in the haddock bottom trawl fishery. It is now being used by fishermen in the northeastern U.S. haddock fishery, as well as being adopted by the EU as a mandatory measure in cod bycatch reduction for vessels fishing in Norwegian waters.


The Flexigrid goes inside a trawl net and sorts the targeted fish from the unwanted fish and allows unwanted fish to safely exit the net. This device is now mandatory in some European whiting fisheries, and is manufactured and distributed on a global basis.



View more info on previous winners