A new design for long-line fishing gear reduces seabird deaths that occur when the birds chase the baited hooks, mistaking them for food. Designed by Japanese tuna boat captain Kazuhiro Yamazaki, the invention won grand prize at the World Wildlife Fund's 2011 International Smart Gear Competition.
The new gear, called the ‘Yamazaki Double-Weight Branchline,’ causes hooks to sink deeper into the water, out of site of hungry birds. Two lead weights are placed in a branchline 2 meters above the hook. One is fixed while the other can slide freely. This design spreads mass and reduces the danger of injury to crew members if the weight recoils. More than 95,000 weighted branch lines were tested in 2010 and reduced seabird bycatch by almost 90 percent more than traditional lines. Fish catch rates were not affected.
The contest tasked entrants with reducing the "enormous environmental harm of bycatch on sea life." Two runner ups were also awarded prizes, and the WWF will help the winners expand upon their ideas this year.
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