Q&A with: Mike Osmond

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Mike Osmond is the director of the World Wildlife Foundation’s Smart Gear competition, which rewards fishermen for creating inventive new ways to fish efficiently and sustainably. He has worked in the fields of education, enforcement, public participation programs, marine park management, and humpback whale research, among others.

Can you give us some history of the Smart Gear competition?

In about 2004 folks at World Wildlife Fund decided to put together a workshop to bring together cetacean (whales and dolphin) people and gear people to discuss ways of reducing cetacean bycatch in fisheries. While putting the workshop together, they realized how big an issue bycatch was in general and realized that a lot of good ideas for reducing bycatch were being developed by fishermen themselves. So Smart Gear was born out of realization that we needed a way to attract and identify the ideas that people are coming up with and apply them to the whole issue of bycatch (not just cetaceans).

Can you give us some history of the Smart Gear competition?

So you felt a competition was the best way to attract these ideas?

Fishermen are always looking for better ways to reduce bycatch—bycatch doesn’t help them. It takes time to handle, reduces fuel efficiency, and it can make handling target species catch more difficult. Our idea is that fishermen just rig up stuff on their own boats to try and tackle the problem and a lot of the time, these home grown ideas work. But right now, only a small pool of people know about an idea that has broader applications. We are trying to publicize these ideas. Through the competition, inventors have the potential not only for prize money but to spread ideas to a wider community.

Read the rest of Mike’s interview by clicking on the pdf image at right.