WASHINGTON – The third annual WWF International Smart Gear Competition launched today seeking new designs for fishing gear that reduces marine bycatch – the accidental catch and related deaths of marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species in fishing gear. Many millions of tons of what is caught in the course of fishing are thrown back into the sea dead or dying each year.
“Our work is all about creating positive solutions to problems facing our world,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund. “Bycatch is a huge problem. It’s the leading threat to many endangered marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds. SmartGear Competition encourages innovative solutions to this threat.”
The winning designer will receive a $30,000 grand prize. There will also be two $10,000 runner-up prizes. Entries will be judged on whether they are innovative, practical, cost-effective, reduce bycatch of any species and makes an important contribution to conservation. The judges include fishermen, researchers, engineers and fisheries managers from all over the world.
The competition is open to eligible entrants from any background-including fishermen, professional gear manufacturers, teachers, students, engineers, scientists and backyard inventors. Instructions for entering the competition are available at www.smartgear.org. Completed entries must be submitted by July 31, 2007.
“Bycatch is a serious threat to marine life that demands a wide-ranging, multidisciplinary response," said Bill Hogarth, director of NOAA Fisheries Service. "WWF's Smart Gear competition has been an effective way to catalyze that response by encouraging creative thinkers everywhere to share their ideas for minimizing bycatch.”
Last year’s winner was a New Jersey inventor who designed fishing gear that could save thousands of sharks from accidentally dying on fishing lines each year. The winner’s design uses a shark's ability to detect magnetic fields as a way to protect them by placing strong magnets just above baited hooks. The design will be tested this spring and summer in advance of potential commercial use.
For official competition rules and to learn how to enter, please visit www.smartgear.org. The competition begins February 7, 2007 and ends July 31, 2007. Employees, agents, current contractors, and relatives of employees of World Wildlife Fund, Inc. or any WWF National Organization 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.
Known in the United Statesas World Wildlife Fund and recognized worldwide by its panda logo, WWF leads international efforts to protect endangered species and their habitats and to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. Now in its fifth decade, WWF, the global conservation organization, works in more than 100 countries around the world. For more information on World Wildlife Fund, visit www.worldwildlife.org.
Note to editors: High resolution photographs (2006 winners in the field and head shots, bycatch, dolphins, whales, and sea turtles) and video (bycatch, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, fishing boats) are available to accompany press stories mentioning World Wildlife Fund or WWF. If used, appropriate credit must also be given to the photographer.