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International Judges Join Competition For Fishing Gear that Reduces Wildlife Deaths

Two Months Left to Compete for $25,000 Grand Prize for "Smart Gear"

Washington - Several new distinguished fisheries experts from around the world have joined the panel of judges for the International Smart Gear Competition, an unprecedented coalition of fishermen, scientists and conservation groups looking for fishing gear designs that reduce wildlife deaths.

"World Wildlife Fund is excited that the competition has garnered worldwide interest," said Karen Baragona, Deputy Director of the World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Species Conservation program. "Since WWF launched the competition in May, the Smart Gear web site has been visited by people in 88 countries and read in six languages, and our judges now represent five countries."

Judges have been added representing the New Zealand seafood industry, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, a British government research center and an American research center.

The new judges are:

  • Malcolm McNeill of Sealord Group Ltd., a former skipper and now Vessel Manager of Sealord, a global seafood enterprise based in New Zealand with a worldwide fishing, processing and marketing network. Sealord is one of New Zealand's largest fishing companies, specializing in deep water species, and has actively supported the development of fishing gear and methods that reduce accidental capture of seabirds and mammals.
  • Dr. Andrew Revill of the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), an executive agency of the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. CEFAS is an internationally renowned scientific research and advisory center working in fisheries management, environmental protection and aquaculture.
  • Dr. Wilfried Thiele of the UN FAO in Rome. Dr. Thiele is senior fisheries industry officer in the Fishing Technology Service of the FAO, a program that promotes and develops appropriate fish capture technology with regard for the environment and well-being of fishing communities as well as guidelines in support of fisheries management, safety at sea and protection of the environment.
  • Pam Yochem of Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, a science center focused on practical solutions to the most critical conservation challenges facing marine ecosystems and species.

The contest, which is accepting entries until Dec. 31, seeks innovative fishing gear that reduces bycatch - the accidental deaths of marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species. The competition is open to anyone and will award a $25,000 grand prize to the design judged to be the most practical, cost-effective method for reducing bycatch of any species. Two runner-up prizes of $5,000 will be awarded.

Conventional fishing gear often doesn't allow users to selectively target their catch. As a result, non-target fish species, marine mammals, birds and sea turtles are caught and sometimes killed. Smart Gear participants are asked to develop fishing gears or methods that increase selectivity for target fish species and reduce bycatch of non-target species in ways that still allow fishermen to fish profitably. The competition is open to anyone and information is available at

There are three categories for entries: gear that reduces sea turtle bycatch, gear that reduces cetacean bycatch, and gear that reduces bycatch of any other non-target species. The winning entry will receive funding to take the design from the drawing-board stage to prototype development, testing, and initial manufacture.

The experts join a panel already comprised of judges from World Wildlife Fund, the National Fisheries Institute, the American Fisheries Society, the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, the Marine Wildlife Bycatch Consortium (comprised of the New England Aquarium, Duke University, the University of New Hampshire and the Maine Lobstermen's Association), the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.