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World Wildlife Fund opens 2014 Smart Gear Competition to reduce fisheries bycatch

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is launching the 2014 International Smart Gear Competition, which seeks and supports innovative solutions to address fisheries bycatch, the unintentional catch of fish and other marine species.

The competition begins Saturday and ends August 31, 2014.

“The Smart Gear Competition aims to spur ideas for environmentally-friendly fishing gear that allows fishermen to fish smarter while helping to maintain ocean health,” stated Bill Fox, Fisheries Vice President at World Wildlife Fund. “In addition to fishermen losing millions of dollars each year due to bycatch, many other species, including endangered marine life, are unintentionally and needlessly killed by antiquated fishing gear and it is jeopardizing their survival.”

The 2014 International Smart Gear Competition will offer its largest prize purse to date, totaling $65,000, including:

  • A grand prize of $30,000 and two $10,000 runner-up prizes, sponsored by Fondation Segré.
  • In partnership with John West Foods, a $7,500 special prize will be awarded to the idea that identifies a solution to reduce the amount of bycatch found in both purse seine and longline tuna fisheries in the waters of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
  • Finally, with the Marine Mammal Commission and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sponsorship, a $7,500 special prize that will be awarded to the entry judged to most effectively reduce the bycatch of marine mammals in gillnet fisheries.

After the prizes are awarded, WWF works with each of the winners to bring their ideas to life and see them implemented in fisheries around the world.

“Today, more than 40% of the winning ideas identified by the competition in previous years are being used regularly in different types of fisheries,” Fox said.

Since its launch in 2004, the International Smart Gear Competition has demonstrated that conservation and industry can successfully work together to identify and eventually implement solutions to reduce bycatch. Past winners have included specially designed lights that reduce the bycatch of turtles in gillnets, and a device to reduce the bycatch of seabirds on tuna longlines.

This year, the competition is being supported by Fondation Segré, Bumble Bee Foods, John West Foods, the Marine Mammal Commission, NOAA, and WWF. Full details and entry forms are available at www.smartgear.org.

For more information, official competition rules, and instructions on how to enter, visit www.smartgear.org

The International Smart Gear Competition is open to entrants who are at least 18 years old at the time of entry. Employees, directors, agents, current contractors, and relatives of employees and directors of WWF, Marine Mammal Commission, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bumble Bee Foods, Fondation Segré, and John West Foods are ineligible. Judges and relatives of judges are also ineligible. The competition is void where prohibited. Odds depend on number of entries received. No purchase is necessary.

The competition begins March 1st, 2014 and ends on August 31st, 2014.