November 15, 2007 09:23 ET

Winning Inventors Find Solutions to Wasteful Fishing-WWF

GLAND, SWITZERLAND--(Marketwire - Nov. 15, 2007) - A team of US Rhode Island inventors has been awarded the grand prize of USD 30,000 in an international competition that could save thousands of fish and other marine life from dying or being discarded each year. The winners beat more than 70 other contenders from 22 countries.

Every year, millions of marine creatures are caught in fishing gear targeting other species and this 'incidental' catch is called bycatch.

This year's winning real-life solution is called "The Eliminator"-- a radical new trawl that works by catching haddock, but reduces the accidental netting of other marine species. It takes advantage of the haddock's natural tendency to swim upwards, not downwards which is the norm for other fish.

"The collaborative design and development of the Eliminator trawl is a great example of industry and scientists working together with managers to develop innovative solutions to reduce or eliminate bycatch," said David Beutel, one of the winning inventors at the University of Rhode Island. "We're excited to be receiving this award and look forward to continuing to research effective ways of reducing bycatch in fishing."

Two other inventors won runner-up prizes of $10,000 each for their inventions to help reduce bycatch. Argentinian Diego Gonzalez Zevallos, studied the accidental death of seabirds as they dive for food and are struck by trawling cables and dragged under the water and drown. His device, a simple plastic cone is likely to dramatically reduce seabird deaths, while not affecting the profitability for fishermen.

The other runner-up prize winner, Glen R. Parsons of the University of Mississippi, created a cylinder device, that was widely tested on red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Destructive fishing is devastating our oceans, wasting a valuable natural resource and causing dramatic declines in populations of many marine species," said Dr. Simon Cripps, Director of WWF's International Marine Programme. "This competition is part of an unprecedented effort to team up with fishermen, industry insiders and scientists to find the best real-world, cost-effective ideas to solve the scourge of bycatch."

A special UK prize of $5,000 was won by Andy Smerdon of Aquatec Group Ltd. of Hampshire, England, for a device called the Passive Porpoise Deterrent. The winning design, which draws on the mammal's echolocation system alerts porpoises to the presence of fishing nets so they can swim away and avoid them.

Editor's Notes: For more information on the International Smart Gear competition visit www.smartgear.org. Images are available for media on request.

The International Smart Gear Competition was created by WWF and a diverse range of partners in May 2004 to bring together fishermen, fisheries, policy and science to find solutions to reduce the unnecessary decline of vulnerable species due to bycatch. The first Smart Gear Competition drew more than 50 entries from 16 countries. This year the competition drew 70 entries from 22 countries, including Cameroon, Finland, Thailand, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, Kenya, Malaysia and many others.

Other information regarding bycatch and the 2007 Smart Gear Competition:

- As many as 250,000 endangered loggerhead turtles and critically endangered leatherback turtles are caught annually on longlines set for tuna, swordfish, and other fish.

- There are 26 species of seabirds, including 17 albatross species, threatened with extinction because of bycatch in longlines, which kills more than 300,000 seabirds each year.

- An estimated 89 percent of hammerhead sharks and 80 percent of thresher and white sharks have disappeared from the Northeast Atlantic Ocean in the last 18 years, largely due to bycatch.

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