International Smart Gear Competition: Wrap Your Head Around Bycatch!

Inventor Contest

The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has launched the 4th International Smart Gear Competition, this year inviting submissions of designs for fishing devices that reduce bycatch. Bycatch, generally caught by fisheries and large-net fishermen, is the unintended capture of species other than the target species, as well as undesirable young members of the target species.

Bycatch, which could account for as much as 50 percent of a catch, is generally thrown back into the sea either dead or dying, endangering that species as well as other sealife that depend on fishery bycatch for food. Additionally, sometimes larger sea animals like dolphins, seabirds, and marine turtles are trapped with the target catch in the fishing next.

Below, a leatherback turtle is caught as bycatch.


©  WWF-Canon / Hélène PETIT© WWF-Canon / Hélène PETIT


No fishing experience, advanced degree, nor prior experience in design is required to enter the WWF competition; all are invited to enter. A total of $57,000 in prizes will be awarded, including a $7,500 East-African Marine Eco-Regional Prize for entries that address the serious bycatch issues in East Africa. The grand prize winner will receive $30,000.

Last year, a team of inventors for Rhode Island won the grand prize for the design of fishing gear to catch haddock without picking up North Atlantic cod that swim in the same waters. Their ingenious device that captures the haddock swimming upstream, but releases the cod and other fish swimming downstream through an escape hatch, is now used in the U.S, and is being tested for use in the U.K. and European fisheries.

Submissions to the Smart Gear Competition must be postmarked not later than June 30, 2009 and received no later than July 7, 2009. For information on how to enter the Smart Gear Competition, visit the competition website.