"Underwater Baited Hook" Is World Wildlife Federation's Smart Gear Winner
At the moment an albatross swoops down to the sea for a bit of fish bait, it can go from being one of the most graceful soaring and swooping birds to being "bycatch," the term for an unintended victim of a fishery net that few birds escape. The winner of this year's World Wildlife Federation's (WWF) Smart Gear competition has tackled the problem of bird bycatch with its invention, for now called quite simply the "underwater baited hook."
The team of Australian inventors, whose first place win brought them $30,000, very cleverly launch their fish bait through a compartment in a hydraulic system, one pre-programmed to release the bait at a depth beneath the level of the ship's propeller. The turbulence caused by the propeller forms a thick cover of constantly disturbed water that obscures the bait from seabirds. (So much for 'bird's eye viewing.)
The obscurity of the bait will help to reduce the mortality rates of swoopers, like the albatross, as well as deep-diving seabirds, like some petrels and shearwaters. Lower mortality rates will be especially noticeable during mating seasons, when many seabirds become bycatch.