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Number 8 wire ingenuity runner-up in competition

11 May 2006

Kiwi number 8 wire ingenuity runner-up in international competition

The world’s albatross species could be saved from being accidentally caught in fishing gear thanks to innovations emerging from WWF’s International Smart Fishing Gear Competition.

Runner-up, New Zealander Chris Carey of Independent Fisheries Ltd, competed with fishermen from all over the globe.

Chris' solution to the problem of seabirds getting caught on wires attached to trawl nets is simple, cheap and can be made using recycled materials.

His approach is a rope covered in flailing, brightly coloured material which is attached to the wire leading from the boat. The idea, dubbed the scarecrow in the sea, is to make the wire more visible to scare seabirds away.

The device is currently being trialled in New Zealand by government and industry in cooperation with WWF-New Zealand.

“Smart fishing practices pay off for both fishers and our Southern Ocean albatross. WWF-New Zealand is involved in advising on the scientific trial of the device, which has been a rewarding experience,” says Caren Schröder, WWF-New Zealand's Marine Programme Leader.

Winners of the Smart Gear Competition were judged by a diverse set of industry representatives, including fishermen, researchers, engineers and fisheries managers from all over the world. The Smart Fishing Gear Awards were announced today at the Brussels Seafood Show by Jim Leape, the WWF International Chief Executive.


Albatrosses and other seabirds often feed by scavenging for food behind fishing vessels and other boats, waiting for prey to be disturbed or scraps thrown overboard. In this process seabirds get caught up in fishing gear and drown.

This 'incidental' catch is called bycatch and is threatening many species, such as albatross.

Between 80,000 - 160, 000 seabirds are killed in this way each year in the Southern Ocean and it is estimated that a high proportion is killed by "pirate" fishing boats.

Today 26 species of seabird, including 17 species of albatrosses, are in danger of extinction worldwide as a result of fishing. Many cheap and readily implemented solutions to avoid bird bycatch have been, and are being developed.

Worldwide, albatross mitigation efforts tended to be targeted at long line fisheries to avoid birds being caught on hooks. Only over recent years has it become evident that trawl fisheries equally pose a high risk to the world's albatross and petrels populations.

The NZ invention championed by Chris Carey along with a suite of trawl seabird mitigation devices is currently tested for mitigation effectiveness by NZ government and industry in cooperation with WWF-New Zealand. First results are expected later this year.

The winner of the WWF Smart Gear Competition is Michael M Herrmann, a Research Associate at American organisation “Shark Defense,” who came up with a novel idea for addressing the problem of shark bycatch. Sharks can detect magnetic fields and he found that placing strong magnets just above the hooks on longlines repels certain shark species. Having won the 2006 Smart Gear Competition, Mr Herrmann has received approx. €20,000 (US$25,000) to further develop and test his winning idea.

WWF 's International Smart Gear Competition , created in 2004, brings together the fishing industry, research institutes, universities, and government, to inspire and reward practical, innovative fishing gear designs that reduce bycatch.


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