Washington - World Wildlife Fund today announced the judging panel for this year's WWF International Smart Gear Competition. The contest was created by World Wildlife Fund to encourage the design of innovative fishing gear to reduce marine bycatch - the accidental catch and related deaths of marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species. This year's panel of judges is a team of experts with backgrounds in fields as diverse as gear technology, sea bird bycatch, fisheries management, biology, conservation and the seafood and fishing industries. The multi-national, multi-disciplinary panel will gather in April to select the winner who will then be awarded $25,000 for his or her innovative idea for fishing gear that will reduce marine animal deaths.
"World Wildlife Fund's Smart Gear competition brings together the world's leading experts in bycatch and fisheries issues to find innovative ways to reduce bycatch and promote more sustainable fishing," said Kim Davis, deputy director of World Wildlife Fund's (WWF) Marine Program. "This year's judging panel has world-class expertise and perspective."
Among the 2006 Smart Gear judges:
- Nancy Gitonga, director of fisheries for the government of Kenya
- Charles C. Cheng, Wild Bird Federation Taiwan / Dept. Biology, Kaohsiung Medical University
- Norman Graham, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway
- Jan W. Lybekk, Mustad, Norway (the largest hook manufacturer in the world)
- Martin Hall, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission
WWF is working globally to reduce the unintended death of seabirds, turtles, dolphins and other animals through entanglement with fishing gear. Conventional fishing gear occasionally does 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. Millions of animals caught in fishing gear are thrown away as bycatch - the exact amount of marine life wasted each year is difficult to quantify, but estimates range from 7 to 27 million metric tons annually.
This year's International Smart Gear Competition winner will be announced at the European Seafood Exposition on May 11 in Brussels, Belgium. The Smart Gear competition is open to anyone and information as well as a complete list of judges is available at www.smartgear.org.