(St. John’s, NL: 14 Oct. 2014) Every day, the team at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources work in the world’s largest flume tank designing and testing fishing gear including methods to reduce fisheries bycatch.

During the week of Oct. 13 -17 they will host a team of international judges for the World Wildlife Fund’s International 2014 Smart Gear Competition to find the latest innovative solutions to address fisheries bycatch through environmentally-friendly fishing gear.

Designed to inspire creative thinkers, Smart Gear is a call for innovative ideas that have practical applications for fishing “smarter”— for increasing selectivity for target fish species and reducing bycatch by improving fishing gear.

Launched in 2004 by the WWF in partnership with industry leaders, scientists and fish harvesters, this the first time the judges have convened in Canada. Twelve judges including fisheries experts, gear technologists, fishermen, scientists, researchers and conservationists will be in St. John’s Oct. 15 and 16 to review competition entries.

Dr. Paul Winger, director for the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources, is one of this year’s judges. “Simple, inexpensive innovations have proven effective in many fisheries and some of the best solutions to date have come from harvesters themselves. Our team is looking forward to showing the international judges our world-class testing facilities and capabilities here at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University.”

This year’s competition has attracted more than 50 entries from gear technologists, harvesters and engineers. It is also offering the largest prize purse to date, totaling $65,000 including a grand prize of $30,000, two $10,000 runner-up prizes, a $7,500 special tuna bycatch reduction prize and a $7,500 special marine mammal bycatch reduction prize. Winners will be announced in late November 2014 at the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, Washington.

WWF will work with each of the winners to bring their ideas to life and see them implemented in fisheries around the world. More than 40% of the winning ideas identified by the competition in previous years are being used regularly in different types of fisheries including specially designed lights that reduce the bycatch of turtles in gillnets, and a device to reduce the bycatch of seabirds on tuna longlines.

This year, the competition is being supported by Fondation Segré, Bumble Bee Foods, John West Foods, the Marine Mammal Commission, NOAA, WWF and the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University.

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For additional information please contact Kimberley Thornhill, manager, Marketing and Communications, Marine Institute, at (709) 778-0544 or (709) 691-9221.