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One fish, two fish, right fish, wrong fish

A WWF International Smart Gear Competition to reduce bycatch

Pollock Catch

Alaskan pollock caught by trawler.
by David Csepp, NOAA/NMFS/AKFSC/Auke Bay Lab. – NOAA Photo Library: fish0192.

By some estimates, fishing bycatch—which includes unwanted dolphins, turtles, whales, and birds—snared by gillnets, longlines, and trawlers makes up 40% of the catch today.

The 2014 International Smart Gear Competition seeks innovative, environmentally friendly ways to reduce the amount of fisheries bycatch. The recurring contest is sponsored by the WWF, and has resulted in some really clever solutions (such as LED-equipped nets tuned to various wavelengths that repel specific species) that greatly reduce bycatch, conserving populations of marine mammals, turtles, fish, and other sea creatures.

Open to all, over the last few years the competition has attracted entries from all kinds of people who care about fishing— from gear technologists and fishermen to engineers and chemists. The judges panel includes fisheries experts, gear technologists, fishermen, scientists, researchers, and conservationists.

Deadline for entries for 2014 is August 31, but don’t let that stop you from coming up with new ideas. The contest is a recurring event—and this year’s prizes total $65,000.

  • Jol

    You bring up some very valid points. We are only now reiznncoigg the potential impacts of harvest related to recreational angling, much of which is not accounted for by fisheries managers and policy makers. This is especially concerning if the fish being targeted and harvested are immature and have not yet had a chance to spawn and contribute to the maintenance of the population. Another important consideration is that even catch-and-release (whether voluntary or mandated through size regulations, for instance) can result in post-release mortality or sub-lethal effects like reduced growth rates and spawning potential. Given that recreational angling is a huge economic engine in developed and developing countries, it is important to determine the best practices for catch-and-release so that undersized fish can survive the experience, grow, reproduce, and then potentially either be harvested later in life or recaptured in a catch-and-release fishery. This way each fish has the ability to contribute to the economy in several ways and/or at several times in its life (not to mention the ecological services many fish provide to aquatic ecosystems). One thing to remember in the debate about ‘size’ is that the number of eggs produced by female fish is positively related to body size – meaning that the bigger the fish, the proportionally greater capacity she has to contribute to the population. As such, the overall goal of fisheries managers is to allow enough small fish to eventually grow into big fish PLUS keep enough big fish in the population to so that the rate of replenishment (known as recruitment) can be maximized. This gets tricky from the perspective of commercial and recreational anglers since for a given unit of effort (time/money) it is much more appealing to catch a big fish than a small one, even if the point is to just catch-and-release.