WASHINGTON - World Wildlife Fund today announced the launch of the second WWF International Smart Gear Competition. The contest seeks innovative 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 such as nets and longlines.
"World Wildlife Fund's looking for real-world fishing solutions that allow fishermen to fish 'smarter'- better targeting their intended catch while safeguarding the dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life often caught unintentionally," said Ginette Hemley, vice president, species conservation, World Wildlife Fund. "This unique collaboration among conservationists, fishermen and scientists is designed to inspire new technologies for more sustainable fishing."
The international competition will award a $25,000 grand prize and two $5,000 runner-up prizes to the designs judged to be the most practical, cost-effective methods for reducing bycatch of any species. The competition is open to eligible entrants from any background-including fishermen, professional gear manufacturers, teachers, students, engineers, scientists and backyard inventors. Instructions for entry along with the competition rules are available at www.smartgear.org and completed entries must be submitted by March 15, 2006.
Conventional fishing gear does often not allow users to selectively target their catch. As a result, non-target fish species, marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species are caught and sometimes killed. More than 25 percent of what is caught in the course of fishing - as much as 20 million metric tons, annually-is thrown over the sides of fishing boats dead or dying. This bycatch is the leading threat to many endangered marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds around the world.
"The WWF International Smart Gear Competition aims to stop one of the biggest threats to healthy marine ecosystems and related economic losses to fishermen," said Hemley of World Wildlife Fund. "We hope this competition harnesses the creativity and ingenuity of fishermen, scientists and the public to reduce the waste caused by inefficient gear."
Last year, WWF awarded three new practical solutions to marine bycatch: a system for keeping longlines away from sea turtles by a former high-school biology teacher and commercial fisherman; changes to the chemical properties of fishing ropes and nets by a North American team; and modified trawls to reduce bycatch of undersized shrimp and fish by a team of Indian scientists.
The winner of the WWF International Smart Gear Competition will be decided by a diverse set of judges, including fishermen, researchers, engineers and fisheries managers from all over the world.