Each year, large numbers of whales, sea birds, sea turtles, and other marine species are accidentally maimed or killed after becoming ensnared in commercial fishing gear. A new international competition, supported in part by the Nicholas School through the Marine Wildlife Bycatch Consortium, is intended to help address the problem by awarding a $25,000 grand prize for the best new fishing gear designed to reduce "bycatch."
The International Smart Gear Competition is open to anyone. The top prize will be awarded to the designer of the gear that offers the most practical, cost-effective method for reducing bycatch of any species. In addition to the prize money, the winner will receive assistance in bringing the design to market.
The judges will be scientists, policy experts, seafood suppliers, conservationists, and gear technologists from a coalition of government, university, nonprofit, and industry partners, including the Marine Wildlife Bycatch Consortium, the American Fisheries Society, the Center for Sustainable Aquatic Resources, NOAA Fisheries, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Fisheries Institute, and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation.
Entanglement in fishing gear was identified as the leading threat to marine mammals around the globe in a recent report from the U.S. Oceans Commission. Conventional fishing gear often does not allow fishermen to target their catch to specific species. As a result, nontargeted species, such as whales, sea turtles, and birds, are often caught in the gear or nets.