Tuesday, May 16, 2006

WWF's International Smart Gear Competition - 2006 winners have been announced....

A New Jersey inventor was awarded the grand prize in the International Smart Gear Competition - 2006 for a fishing gear innovation that could save thousands of sharks a year from dying accidentally on fishing lines, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its partners announced.

Grand-prize winner Michael M. Herrmann from SharkDefense -- a research company in New Jersey -- beat out more than 80 other contenders for the Smart Gear prize with an original idea that uses a shark's ability to detect magnetic fields as a way to protect them. Herrmann found that placing strong magnets just above baited hooks on a longline repels certain shark species, averting potential harm to the shark or the fishing gear. He was awarded $25,000 to further test and develop his idea.

Every year, thousands of sharks die after being caught on hooks set by commercial fisheries that are targeting tuna and swordfish. Earlier this month, the World Conservation Union announced that 20 percent of shark species are nearing extinction. Bycatch is a major contributor to their decline. Invention could prevent thousands of accidental deaths of sharks in fishing lines.

Runner-Up Prize Winners ($5,000 each)

Chris Carey,
New Zealand.


Mr. Carey designed a device that attaches to the trawl warps (the cables that pull the nets through the water) in order to reduce the number of seabirds being killed or injured during trawl fishing. Skipper Carey's goal was to make the warp lines and the area around them highly visible so that sea birds will be able to see them even in the midst of a feathery feeding frenzy. Using materials available on board any large fishing vessel, Mr. Carey's design consists of a rope that is clipped on to the warp line with purse seine clips and has stiff streamers made out of strapping tape that bristle out and make the rope look like a bottlebrush. The bristles form a visible and safe 'no fly zone' around the warp line so sea birds will be able to see it coming and can move before getting struck and injured or killed. The design is easily deployed and has the potential to be adapted to fit trawlers around the world.

The judges voted to award Mr. Carey's invention a prize because it is simple and immediately available, there is little to no cost for extra equipment, there is no concern for loss of catch and the design is readily adoptable by fishermen whose fishery could be closed due to high levels of seabird bycatch.

Kristian Zachariassen,
Faroe Islands

Winning Idea: THE FLEXI-GRID (Also known as THE FISH FILTER)

Mr. Zachariassen developed a flexible sorting grid built out of tubes and ropes. Inside a trawl net, the grid sorts the targeted fish from the unwanted fish and allows unwanted fish to safely exit the net. Bycatch larger than the targeted species can swim out of an opening in front of the grid rather than being herded into the cod end and kept. Many trawlers already insert filter grids into their trawl nets to stop non-target fish getting into the end of the net. However, these are not always effective at reducing bycatch and they also lower fishing efficiency because the water flow through the grid is reduced. The grids are also often extremely heavy and cumbersome. Mr. Zachariasssen made a flexible grid which consists of small plastic tubes set on ropes. Because of the grid's flexibility, water flows through the net differently, and fewer fish become entangled in the net in front of the grid. Trials show the grid is effective at cutting bycatch of cod and saith by 95%, while the catch of the target fish (blue-whiting) is only reduced by 1%.

Mr. Zachariassen's design is a technique, known from fish farming, developed by Johnson Seafarms Ltd in Shetland, who originally created the Flexi-panel to size-sort salmon and trout in fish-gages. Mr. Zachariassen and his colleagues at the Faroese Fisheries Laboratory and the trawl factory Vonin Ltd., together with the pelagic trawlers Naeraberg and Christian i Gropinum, re-developed this panel to the flexible panel, also called the Flexi-grid.

For more information on the International Smart Gear competition visit: