Sidebar 2.1: Smart Gear Prize

In 2005, ISSF’s partner, WWF, sponsored the first International Smart Gear Competition. This contest is open to fishers, scientists, managers, engineers, inventors, and anyone else interested in reducing the incidental catch of nontarget species while fishing. Contestants submit their ideas for modified gear or procedures, and an expert panel evaluates their originality, effectiveness, practicality, and cost considerations. Prize money exceeds $50,000, and skippers are encouraged to enter the contest, which happens in odd-numbered years. See www.smartgear.org for more information.

The first Smart Gear prize was awarded for a deep-setting technique designed to minimize the catch of sea turtles, which was developed by a one-time tuna longline fisherman. Though most tuna longliners already set their lines deeply, a significant fraction of hooks (usually the ones closest to the buoys) remain above 100 m depth. The winning design called for a weighted mainline that ensures that hooks remain below 100 m. This gear was successfully tested in the Pacific, where the vessels caught more bigeye and fewer nontarget species. Detailed gear setting instructions are available in English, French, and Spanish.