Honor Awarded by Rare in Partnership with National Geographic

WCS's "Bycatch Escape Gaps for Fish Traps" Takes Top Honor

NEW YORK, (January 10, 2012) -- The Wildlife Conservation Society has won top honors from Rare, in partnership with National Geographic, for an innovative marine program operated in Curacao and Kenya. WCS won the grand prize in the contest called "Solution Search: Turning the Tide for Coastal Fisheries."

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s winning solution is entitled “Bycatch Escape Gaps for Fish Traps.” The program has received a $20,000 prize to support its conservation and
resource management initiative.

The two runners-up, Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery and the Misool Baseftin Foundation, each received prizes of $5,000 for their respective solutions, “Fresh. Fair. Fish.” in Canada and “Defending the Heart of Marine Biodiversity: Community Stewardship of Raja Ampat’s Reefs” in Raja Ampat.

The winners will receive their awards at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The WCS winning project promotes fish traps with rectangular escape gaps that permit small, juvenile fish to escape, a modification that reduces bycatch by 80 percent. Escape gaps offer coastal fishers a low-cost, low-tech means of maintaining sustainable fisheries in coastal East Africa, the Caribbean, and other regions using traditional fish traps.

“Tim McClanahan and co-investigator Ayana Johnson’s project demonstrates how the science of conservation can be used for practical solutions that benefit both people and wildlife,” said Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS’s Marine Programs. “We thank Rare and for all those who voted for this project for recognizing Tim’s work.”

This first-ever global Solution Search sought applications from organizations worldwide with demonstrated innovations that benefit coastal communities and marine ecosystems. More than 100 applications were received from 48 countries, from which a panel of expert judges selected 10 finalists, with the public choosing the winners. Solutions submitted for the contest included the implementation of no-take zones, introduction of innovative fishing gear and the development of alternative livelihoods. Submissions came from across the globe, including Indonesia, Madagascar, Brazil and Turkey.

“For too long the conservation community has focused on problems,” said Brett Jenks, president and CEO of Rare. “But there are a lot of working solutions in remote parts of the planet. These finalists, and particularly the winners, prove just that. By sharing their solutions with the world, they are improving conservation everywhere.”

Miguel A. Jorge, director of National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative, said, “Discovering and sharing solutions that restore marine life and human communities is key to changing the broader world of fishing and seafood. By telling the stories of these win-win innovations, we hope to inspire more people and communities to transform their relationship with the ocean.”

Platform sponsors are the Goldring Family Foundation, the Barr Foundation and the Cedar Hill Foundation. Judges for the contest were Steve Gaines, professor of ecology, evolution and marine biology, and director of the Marine Science Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara; Carl Safina, president of the Blue Ocean Institute; Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention of Biological Diversity; Eileen de Ravin, program manager of the Equator Initiative at the United Nations Development Programme; Enric Sala, marine ecologist and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Monique Barbut, CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility; and Nicolas Gutiérrez, fisheries scientist with the Marine Stewardship Council. To read all entries, please visit www.solutionsearch.org.

Stephen Sautner: 1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org
John Delaney: 1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the Flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org

Rare recognizes that conservation ultimately comes down to people, so conservationists must become as skilled in social change as in science. Rare specializes in designing and implementing social marketing campaigns to change behaviors of people who live in and around the world’s areas of highest biodiversity. Based in Arlington, Va., with offices in Mexico, China and Indonesia, Rare searches the globe for replicable, sustainable environmental success stories and then trains local conservation leaders to develop and market those proven practices in order to protect imperiled species without compromising basic human needs. www.rareconservation.org .

The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. National Geographic reflects the world through its magazines, television programs, films, music and radio, books, DVDs, maps, exhibitions, live events, school publishing programs, interactive media and merchandise. National Geographic magazine, the Society’s official journal, published in English and 33 local-language editions, is read by more than 60 million people each month. The National Geographic Channel reaches more than 380 million households in 37 languages in 163 countries. National Geographic Digital Media receives more than 19 million visitors a month. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geography literacy. www.nationalgeographic.com .