Ocean institute’s sea turtle study earns award


Ocean Discovery Institute, a science education organization, was named runner pp for the International Smart Gear 2011 Award from the World Wildlife Fund. This international award recognizes the achievements of their students, scientists, and fishermen in developing a strategy to reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles.

Ocean Discovery Institute’s winning method, in partnership with Dr. John Wang and the University of Hawaii, is an alteration to existing gillnets to reduce sea turtle bycatch. Coastal gillnet fisheries are one of the most common forms of fishing throughout the world, and are responsible for significant sea turtle bycatch rates because of their non-selective technology, according to a press release. “Studies show that visual cues play an important role in sea turtle foraging, therefore Ocean Discovery Institute created a method of illuminating gillnets using widely available fishing lights, LED lights or chemical lightsticks, which can easily be added onto existing nets to deter sea turtles. This net illumination strategy can reduce sea turtle interaction with gillnets by as much as 60 percent without reducing target catch or catch value,” the release states.

Shara Fisler is Ocean Discovery Institute founder and executive director. Some of those involved in the project will travel to Seattle Nov. 17 to receive the award along with a $10,000 prize. Learn more at