Hookpod - New technology to save albatrosses and turtles

by Becky Ingham

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Becky InghamBy Becky Ingham
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Becky InghamBy Becky Ingham
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About

Four years ago we sought your help via Kickstarter to develop Hookpod; an invention for fisheries that’s small in size and cost, but big in innovation.

Hookpod has huge potential for saving albatrosses and marine turtles from becoming accidentally caught and killed in pelagic longline fisheries. 

We now know Hookpod is the answer for birds and for fishermen. 

With your help, we’ve proven it works, it hugely reduces bird bycatch and it has no impact on the target fish catch rate, or operations on board fishing vessels. 

And with your help, we could do so much more!

We are now raising funds to work with Projeto Albatroz in Brazil, an organisation dedicated to saving albatross species from extinction.

This project aims to provide funding to produce, import and distribute 6000 Hookpods in the pelagic longline fishery off southern Brazil, a hotspot for albatross bycatch in the South Atlantic [3].

With your help we can share this new technology with Brazilian fishermen and stop the accidental deaths of thousands of albatross and hopefully turtles.

With your support, we can fully equip 5 vessels with Hookpods; leading the way for others to follow, whilst actively saving seabirds, and collecting the ultimate dataset on Hookpod performance and turtle bycatch reduction. 

By far the biggest threat faced by albatrosses is death on longline fishing hooks [Reference 1 below]. Every year longliners set about three billion hooks, killing an estimated 300,000 seabirds, of which many are albatrosses [2].

 As the name suggests, a single longline vessel can set a line extending more than 100 km, with several thousand hooks, each baited with fish or squid. When the hooks are cast from the vessel, scavenging seabirds are attracted to the bait before the hooks sink to fishing depth. 

Seabirds can become hooked, dragged down and drowned. Turtles who take baited hooks in the upper layers of the water column face the same fate.

 Currently, a shocking 15 out of 22 species of albatrosses and six out of seven marine turtle species are threatened with extinction. 

Death in pelagic longline fisheries is one of the greatest threats to their survival. After several hours of fishing, when the line is hauled on board, dead birds or turtles are removed and discarded – a terrible outcome for wildlife and fishermen, who would rather catch fish. 

 With the help of Kickstarter funds, the Hookpod has been improved and refined over the last 4 years to reduce seabird bycatch levels to near zero where deployed

It does this by enclosing the barb of the longline hook - stopping seabirds and turtles from getting to it - and therefore making it harmless. When the Hookpod reaches 20m depth, which is deeper than the diving depth of most seabirds and deeper than the normal feeding depths of turtles, a pressure release mechanism opens the pod and the baited hook falls out and is ready to fish.

When fishing is completed, the longline is hauled onboard and hookpods are simply closed and stored along with the hooks and line in standard fishing bins, ready to be used again and again and again. For up to 3 years. It’s durable, effective and long lasting. 

 This fishery traditionally has high levels of albatross and other seabird bycatch, with an estimated 12 million hooks set each year, catching thousands of seabirds. 

Research has shown that turtles spend the majority of their time above 20m depth. This means that the Hookpod could significantly reduce the numbers of these turtles caught in the fishery, in addition to saving seabirds. 

After trialing the Hookpod in Brazilian, New Zealand, Australian and South African waters, we know that their use significantly reduces seabird bycatch. Results published in the journal Animal Conservation showed bycatch rates of 0.04 birds per 1000 hooks when Hookpod is used, compared to 0.8 birds per 1000 hooks in standard branch lines – a 95% reduction [4]. 

Conservationists working in Brazil believe that the Hookpod is the answer to seabird bycatch, and are actively encouraging their use. 

Dimas Gianuca, Head of Science of Projeto Albatroz and local coordinator of the BirdLife Albatross Task Force in Brazil has been involved with the Hookpod project since the first trials. 

Dimas believes that “the Hookpod can be the ultimate solution for reducing seabird bycatch, not only in Brazilian waters, but in longline fisheries around the world. It can be the game changer in the fight against the population declines currently threatening extinction for many albatross and large petrel species”. 

Part of the project will fund observer time to work with local conservation group Projeto Albatroz on these vessels to monitor and record fish catch and bycatch, ensure correct use and fitting of Hookpods, and work to promote their adoption across the broader fleet. 

The Projeto Albatroz team is the right partner for this project. 

They have been working with the longline industry in Brazil for more than 20 years. We know that once fishermen use Hookpods they like new technology and are keen to continue to use them. 

 Celso Rocha de Oliveira, a Brazilian fisherman who has helped in previous trials of the Hookpod, had this to say… 

 “I really liked the equipment and I intend to continue using it. In my opinion, the Hookpod is more efficient than bird scaring lines, line weighting and night setting. It’s a pleasure to help to develop this technology, which in my view is the solution to seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries”. 

In New Zealand, feedback from longline skipper Mike Te Pou backs this up. 

These Hookpods are a great invention and they are working well for us. It has taken away the dangers of using lead weights and on a few occasions Hookpods have outfished our normal gear

 Supporter links: 

Brendan Godley - http://biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/staff/index.php?web_id=brendan_godley

Ian Newton - https://britishbirds.co.uk

Chris Packham - www.chrispackham.co.uk

Andy Clements - https://www.bto.org

Photo by Chris Packham
Photo by Chris Packham

 References 

 1.Phillips RA et al. 2016 The conservation status and priorities for albatrosses and large petrels. Biol. Conserv. 201, 169–183. (doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.06.017) 

 2. Anderson ORJ, Small CJ, Croxall JP, Dunn EK, Sullivan BJ, Yates O, Black A. 2011 Global seabird bycatch in longline fisheries. Endanger. Species Res. 14, 91–106. (doi:10.3354/esr00347) 

 3. Bugoni L, Mancini PL, Monteiro DS, Nascimento L, Neves TS. 2008 Seabird bycatch in the Brazilian pelagic longline fishery and a review of capture rates in the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Endanger. Species Res. 

5, 137–147. (doi:10.3354/esr00115) 

4. Sullivan BJ et al. 2017 At-sea trialling of the Hookpod: A ‘one-stop’ mitigation solution for seabird bycatch in pelagic longline fisheries. Anim. Conserv. Early Onli. (doi:10.1111/acv.12388)

Risks and challenges

The fishing industry can be reluctant to try new equipment that has the potential to affect their operations, so working with both Projeto Albatroz and BirdLife International will be vital because they have decades of technical onboard experience and have worked with Hookpods before.

We will be working with skippers and vessels who are keen to take part and are enthusiastic about being part of the solution.

Changing the way that fishermen view and use mitigation is never going to be easy. The pod is easy to use, durable and effective, but changing practices in an industry such as tuna fishing remains a big challenge.

Providing them with the equipment is the first step, encouraging widespread awareness and support for a new technology will take time and effort.

The peer reviewed scientific paper summarising four years of trials has proven that Hookpods work and reduce bycatch to negligible levels. Being able to state this categorically was one of our biggest challenges that we have now overcome.

A recommendation by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) in May 2016 has further endorsed this and support and awareness of the device is spreading. The biggest challenge we are now facing is breaking into the commercial fishery with widespread use.

That's why we need your support!


We feel that the team we have working on the Hookpod is uniquely placed to address and tackle these challenges and risks. We have a wide range of skills and expertise across the fields required to successfully deliver this project.

Ben Kibel is an engineer and director of both Hookpod and Eco-Electric, within whose facilities the product is currently produced. He is responsible for the design, development and ultimate product specification and has an excellent track record in inventing and producing environmental solutions in fisheries. His manufacturing experience will be critical in the delivery of the project.

In 1999, Ben started Fishtek Ltd with his brother Pete Kibel, with the aim of improving fisheries sustainability. Together they developed a range of products including the sliding lead for safer pelagic longline weighting and acoustic pingers that prevent dolphins from becoming entangled in fishing nets.

Pete Kibel is also a director of Hookpod Ltd and has a wide range of contacts within fisheries worldwide, along with extensive project management and business experience. Pete’s role as a member of the Board and founder of the company is to provide invaluable business and project guidance.

The team is strengthened by director Dr Ben Sullivan, marine biologist and seabird expert. Ben is based in Tasmania and was the co-ordinator of the BirdLife International Marine Programme and Albatross Task Force for a decade. He was awarded a Pew Marine Fellowship in 2010. His involvement provides strong links to the commercial fishing industry and conservation initiatives.

Ben has extensive experience on project management as well as conducting at-sea mitigation research in a range of different fishing gear types.

The only current full-time member of the team is CEO Becky Ingham. She was previously the Director of Falklands Conservation for 9 years, after which she worked as a marketing manager for the RSPB until 2013.

Becky’s knowledge of advertising, project, staff and event management, as well as client relationship development will be critical to the successful delivery of the project.

Completing the team involved is David Agombar, Major Donor Manager at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Director of Hookpod Ltd. Dave has wide experience of successful business development and project management and brings these skills to the project.


Securing widespread uptake of Hookpods in fisheries around the world is not going to be without it’s challenges. However, we believe that with your help we can prevent the decline and potential extinction of iconic species currently under threat.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $6

    Thank you!

    A limited edition thank-you card. Beautifully illustrated by New Nature contributor and artist, Alysia Schuetzle.

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    Pledge £10 or more About $13

    Wear your pin with pride!

    A limited edition collectable enamel pin badge, with the Hookpod logo.

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    Pledge £50 or more About $65

    Thanks for splashing out...

    A one-off edition of an environmentally friendly, reusable, branded Hookpod 'Fish not Birds' metal water bottle; reducing one-use plastics and helping stop plastic waste into the oceans.
    Also comes with a hand-illustrated thank-you card.

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    Pledge £75 or more About $97

    Hats off to our supporters!

    A unique limited edition 'Hookpod - Fish not Birds' beanie in navy blue and white, to keep you warm on those winter days and give you the glow of having helped save albatrosses.
    Comes with a hand-illustrated thank-you card.

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    Pledge £1,000 or more About $1,298

    For helping calm Troubled Waters...

    A signed copy of the beautifully illustrated book 'Troubled Waters; trailing the Albatross, an Artist's Journey' by artist Bruce Pearson. A collectors item for the albatross or art lover. Only two available, first come, first served!

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    Pledge £2,000 or more About $2,597

    John Gale Albatross illustration

    A one-off, unique piece of art from wildlife artist John Gale, famous for his beautiful albatross illustrations.
    Giclee print on quality photo rag paper - signed and limited to print run of 50. This is number 1 in this limited series.
    Image size 40x26.5cm, paper size 52x38cm
    Print from original plate of illustrations used in 'North Atlantic seabirds - Albatrosses and Fulmarine petrels' Flood et al, illustrating plumage sequence from juvenile to adult. Personalised just for you; only one available.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge £6,000 or more About $7,791

    Saving an albatross every day

    Sponsor a complete vessel of your very own. Receive personalised updates from skipper, crew and observers and see first hand pictures as the work you have facilitated takes place. We will get you a framed picture of the vessel and crew holding up your name, company logo or any message you would like! You will receive a certificate of sponsorship along with a thank-you card, pin badge and, of course, one of those special Hookpod beanies.

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