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  WWF 29 Nov 05
WWF launches fishing gear competition to reduce marine bycatch

PlanetArk 29 Nov 05
UN Vote Urges Fishing Limits to Protect Turtles
Story by Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS - The UN General Assembly urged governments and fisheries management groups on Monday to take urgent steps to protect endangered sea turtles and sea birds from an indiscriminate fishing technique.

A resolution adopted by consensus by the 191-nation assembly is aimed at restricting a form of industrial fishing known as longline fishing.

It is used by large fishing vessels in the Pacific Ocean that trail lines studded with hooks that can stretch out as long as 60 miles (100 km) behind them, snaring millions of sea turtles and birds along with the fish they intend to catch.

The resolution calls for urgent implementation of measures set out in UN Food and Agriculture Organization guidelines intended to reduce such incidental sea turtle and bird deaths. The measures include closing some fishing areas on a seasonal or continuous basis as well as restricting particular types of fishing equipment.

But they fall short of the moratorium on longline fishing sought by more than 1,000 scientists from 97 countries in a letter delivered to UN delegates in May.

Longline fishing is practiced by vessels from many nations including the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Spain and other Asian and Latin American nations. The value of its take at dockside is estimated at $4 billion to $5 billion a year.

Tuna and swordfish are longline fishing's most common targets, but the lines also snag as many as 4.4 million sea turtles, bullfish, sharks, marine mammals and seabirds every year, according to a study of the practice conducted by Robert Ovetz of the California-based Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

One of the hardest-hit creatures is the migratory leatherback sea turtle, whose numbers in the Pacific have declined by 95 percent since 1980, according to Ovetz.

Scientists warn the leatherback could disappear in the next five to 30 years unless fishing techniques are altered.

Ovetz hailed the UN vote as a good first step. But a moratorium "would give us the time to put proven conservation measures into place to keep the leatherback from dropping off into oblivion forever," he added in a statement.

WWF 29 Nov 05
WWF launches fishing gear competition to reduce marine bycatch

Marine turtles are caught as bycatch by a variety of fisheries, and often drown in the nets or on the fishing lines.

WWF-US has launched the second WWF International Smart Gear Competition.

The contest seeks innovative fishing gear that reduces marine bycatch--the accidental catch and related deaths of marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species in fishing gear such as nets and longlines.

"WWF is looking for real-world fishing solutions that allow fishermen to fish 'smarter' by better targeting their intended catch while safeguarding the dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life often caught unintentionally," said Ginette Hemley, Vice-President for species conservation at WWF-US.

"This unique collaboration among conservationists, fishermen and scientists is designed to inspire new technologies for more sustainable fishing."

The international competition will award a US$25,000 grand prize and two US$5,000 runner-up prizes to the designs judged to be the most practical, cost-effective methods for reducing bycatch of any species. The competition is open to eligible entrants from any background, including fishermen, professional gear manufacturers, teachers, students, engineers, scientists and backyard inventors.

Conventional fishing gear does often not allow users to selectively target their catch. As a result, non-target fish species, marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and non-target fish species are caught and sometimes killed.

More than 25 per cent of what is caught in the course of fishing--as much as 20 million metric tons annually--is thrown over the sides of fishing boats dead or dying. This bycatch is the leading threat to many endangered marine mammals, sea turtles and sea birds around the world.

"The WWF International Smart Gear Competition aims to stop one of the biggest threats to healthy marine ecosystems and related economic losses to fishermen," Hemley added.

"We hope this competition harnesses the creativity and ingenuity of fishermen, scientists and the public to reduce the waste caused by inefficient gear."

Last year, WWF awarded three new practical solutions to marine bycatch: a system for keeping longlines away from sea turtles by a former high-school biology teacher and commercial fisherman; changes to the chemical properties of fishing ropes and nets by a North American team; and modified trawls to reduce bycatch of undersized shrimp and fish by a team of Indian scientists.

The winner of the WWF International Smart Gear Competition will be decided by a diverse set of judges, including fishermen, researchers, engineers and fisheries managers from all over the world. Instructions for entry along with the competition rules are available at www.smartgear.org. Completed entries must be submitted by March 15, 2006.

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