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WWF's Smartgear Competition Honored by NOAA

WASHINGTON: The Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today honored WWF’s Smartgear competition which aims to make fishing gear more wildlife-friendly. The recognition is part of the agency’s second-annual Sustainable Fisheries Leadership Award. The awards will be presented at a dinner in Washington, D.C., on June 7.

“The health and sustainability of the planet’s ocean resources is of paramount importance for the world’s environmental, economic and human wellbeing,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The contributions from the award recipients inspire others and enhance NOAA’s marine science and management programs each and every day.”

WWF’s Smartgear competition (www.smartgear.org) will receive the Science, Research, and Technology Award for inspiring innovation to reduce bycatch, the accidental catch of dolphins, turtles, birds, and other marine wildlife 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. “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.”

The winning Smartgear 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. “Our work is all about creating positive solutions to problems facing our world and it’s great to be recognized by the agency responsible for nation’s seas,” 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 Smartgear 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.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is celebrating 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Commission of Fish and Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Known in the United States as 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.