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WWF Announces 2011 International Smart Gear Design Competition to Reduce Fisheries Bycatch

Fisherman, Backyard Inventors and Students Encouraged to Submit Entries

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 1, 2011 – World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced the launch of the 2011 International Smart Gear Competition today, to find innovative ways to reduce the amount of fisheries bycatch. Open to anyone from fisherman, backyard inventors and students, the competition will be open from March 1 to August 31, 2011.

“WWF’s goal with the Smart Gear competition is to inspire innovative ideas for environmentally-friendly fishing gear,” stated WWF VP of Fisheries Bill Fox. “In addition to fishermen losing millions of dollars each year due to bycatch, many other species, sometimes endangered marine life are unintentionally and needlessly killed by antiquated fishing gear, and it is jeopardizing their survival. This competition identifies real-world fishing solutions that allow fishermen to fish smarter while helping to maintain ocean health.” 

The 2011 International Smart Gear Competition is offering a grand prize of $30,000 and two $10,000 runner-up prizes. Additionally, in partnership with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), the competition is offering a $7,500 special tuna prize that will be awarded to the idea that will reduce the amount of bycatch found in tuna fisheries. Tuna sustainability is the top WWF global fisheries conservation priority.

“The real work starts the day after the prizes are awarded” said Fox. “WWF then works with each of the winning ideas to bring them to life and implemented in fisheries around the world.”

Since its launch in 2004, the Smart Gear competition has grown more competitive with the winning entries gaining traction with many fisheries around the world. Flexi Grids, which won in 2006, are now mandatory in blue whiting fisheries in the Faroe Islands, and are used in an increasing number of countries all over the world. A winning idea from 2007, a net designed to reduce the bycatch of cod, “The Eliminator” is now being used by more than a dozen fishermen in the northeastern U.S. haddock fishery, as well as being adopted by the EU as a mandatory measure in cod bycatch reduction under certain conditions. Vessels throughout the U.K are also using a modified version of the net.

The International Smart Gear Competition has demonstrated that conservation and industry can successfully work together to identify and eventually implement solutions to bycatch issues in different types of fisheries around the world.

Bycatch has been identified as an issue of critical ocean conservation and resource management concern.  Victims include over 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises that die from entanglement in fishing nets each year, making bycatch the single largest cause of mortality for small cetaceans and pushing several species to the verge of extinction.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fondation Segré, ISSF, and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans are supporting the 2011 competition.

The competition begins March 1, 2011 and ends on 31 August 2011.  Employees, agents, current contractors, and relatives of employees of WWF 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.

For more information, official competition rules and instructions on how to enter, visit