The Hookpod is a new fisheries invention that’s small in size, big in innovation and has huge implications for saving the albatross from extinction
In the time it’s taken you to find this project on Kickstarter, an albatross will have died on a fishing hook.
We've demonstrated the Hookpod can work on fishing boats many times in the last five years. We’re now seeking funds to enable us to produce 20000 Hookpods for commercial scale trials, saving albatross and proving to the fishing world that this is an answer that will work for fishermen and work for wildlife.
What’s the problem?
By far the biggest threat faced by many albatross and other seabirds is death on tuna and swordfish longline fishing hooks.
As the name suggests, this fishing technique involves very long lines of baited hooks - a single vessel may use a line extending 130 km, from which can hang as many as 10-20,000 hooks, each baited with a piece of fish or squid. In many of these fisheries a disposable chemical lightstick is attached above the hook to attract bait fish. These plastic, single-use lightsticks are often discarded into the sea.
Every year tuna longliners set about three billion hooks, killing an estimated 300,000 seabirds every year, of which 100,000 are albatrosses.Currently, 15 out of 22 species of albatrosses and six out of seven marine turtle species are threatened with extinction. Death in these longline fisheries poses one of the greatest threats to the majority of these listed species.
When baited hooks are set from the stern of the vessel and before they sink they are still visible near the sea's surface. At this stage, foraging birds spot them and try to grab the bait before it sinks. They can become hooked, dragged under and drowned.
This is obviously bad news for the birds, but also the fishermen, who would rather catch fish.
What’s the answer?
The Hookpod has been designed to reduce the number of birds killed to near zero. It achieves this by enclosing the point and barb of the hook as it enters the water, making it impossible for birds to become hooked. The pod has a pressure mechanism which opens on reaching fishing depth and the baited hook is released to begin fishing.
It’s clever…really clever! There’s a whole load of techy details available, but in short it keeps birds off hooks, opens underwater, has a light in it and means fishermen can catch fish and not other stuff.
Because the Hookpod has a LED built into the casing, there’s no need for the use of chemical lightsticks. Millions of these are used each year and simply discarded at sea when used. With Hookpod, there’s no need for fishermen to buy lightsticks, or discard them at sea, which means they save money and is great news for the oceans. Plastics such as lightsticks in the sea are a big problem - lots of things eat them, causing death in a number of horrid ways. You can find out more about the problem here: http://www.plasticoceans.net/the-facts/environmental-impact/
Anyway, when the Hookpod opens, the internal pressure chamber floods with water which means it can go to 1000m without the problems of pressure from trapped air.
When the fishing is finished, Hookpods are simply pulled onboard, closed up again and stored along with the hooks and line in standard fishing bins ready to be used again and again and again. For at least 3 years. It’s very durable and long lasting, meaning there is reduced waste and increased efficiency.
·It stops birds being killed on hooks
·It works out cheaper for fishermen than lightsticks and weights and it's easier to use than line weighting and bird scaring lines.
·It reduces marine litter
·Because Hookpod is long lasting, reliable and consistent, it can be used many times over.
What’s the project?
After five years of successful trials and extensive development, we have finalised the design of the Hookpod. We are now ready to seek commercial acceptance into several fisheries. Importantly, fishermen LIKE IT!
Celso Rocha de Oliveira, the Brazilian fisherman who has helped in trials last year 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”.
We are seeking enough funding to allow us to produce Hookpods on a scale where they can start preventing the extinction of the albatross. We want to produce 20,000 pods and distribute them in fisheries in New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and South Africa – we have chosen these countries because they are leaders in setting the regulations to prevent bird bycatch and in some cases because they are hotspots where thousands are birds are killed each year. Adoption in these countries would lead the way for other regions to adopt the technology.
To do this, we need to scale up from the current prototype operation in the back of borrowed factory space to our own premises, purchase a plastic moulding machine to make the casings, buy components and pay for assembly and production. Assembling and shipping the Hookpods is the next stage and then sourcing suitable commercial trial vessels will follow afterwards. We've already got some funds from investors but this kickstarter funding will allow us to complete this project. Each Hookpod costs £5 to produce, and if we are successful we will be able to start getting these out on vessels early in the new year. By donating £500 or more you can pay for us to manufacture and distribute 100 pods to fishermen....and keep one for yourself!! Once proven, we know that the product will speak for itself and the hardest part will be over. At that stage fishermen will want to buy the Hookpod and the albatross will be winging their way off the Threatened Species lists...
Risks and challenges
The technical risks are that our final trials this summer throw up design or operational issues and thus cause delays. This may require product modifications and testing. In turn vessels could be reluctant to trial the product. Both are low risk; we have carried out extensive small scale trials on commercial fishing vessels; communications internally are accurate and timely, we all have confidence in the product and its market readiness. We’ve also developed excellent working relations with skippers of vessels, which will be backed up by a written agreement. Because we are intending to start slowly and speed up, initial production rates will allow for design improvements if required and good communication with vessels will provide early indications of issues. Contingency vessels will be in place for trials if needed.
Commercially, a limited profile in our target market could lead to initial mistrust of the product. It’s one of the reasons we want to trial large numbers in fisheries in four countries. Because of the 6 years of previous industry trials, involving the RSPB Albatross Task Force working on behalf of BirdLife International, we have some great testimonials from fishermen and widespread support for the Hookpod. Advertising and use of editorial in industry press will increase awareness.
There is a low risk of regulations not being changed to allow use of the Hookpod. We are working with partner organisations to ensure that bycatch of birds remains a key issue. Changing regulations to allow Hookpods to become a recognised mitigation measure in fisheries will not happen overnight. We need to get sufficient scientific data to prove that pods stop albatross dying. We know this happens, but to prove it, we need to get a lot of pods out there on boats and show the fishing industry they work.
Changing the way that fishermen view and use mitigation is never going to be easy. The pod is easy to use and will save them money. But getting enough support behind this product to change practices and habits in an industry such as tuna fishing is a big challenge.
We feel that the team we have working on the Hookpod is uniquely placed to address and tackle the challenges and risks above. We have a wide range of skills and expertise across the fields required to successfully deliver this project. Starting with the technology development and innovation, Ben Kibel is the inventor of, engineer behind, and a director of the Hookpod. 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. Ben has previously worked at an electronics company producing control gear for small scale hydro electric power systems.
In 1999, Ben started working with his brother Pete Kibel, with the aim of reducing the environmental harm caused by the fishing industry. Together they developed a range of products including the sliding lead and dolphin pinger that prevents dolphins from becoming entangled in fishing nets.
Pete Kibel is also a director of Hookpod Ltd and has 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. When not working for Hookpod, Ben works for the RSPB as Coordinator of the BirdLife International Marine Programme, and is the recipient of a Pew Environmental Award. He is based in Tasmania, Australia. His involvement provides strong links to the commercial fishing industry. Ben has extensive project management experience and experience of testing and observing mitigation measures. His work in preventing seabird bycatch lead to the concept of the Hookpod in 2006.
The only current full-time member of the team is CEO Becky Ingham. She was Director of Falklands Conservation for 9 years, where she worked with Ben Sullivan on a range of seabird bycatch and fisheries issues. Between 2006-20013 she was a marketing manager for the RSPB. Becky’s strategic and management experience will be critical to the successful delivery of the project.
Completing the team are David Agombar, Major Donor Manager at the RSPB, director of Hookpod and Henry Kenner, shareholder and funder. Both have wide experience of successful international business development and project management and bring these skills to Hookpod as Board Members.
We know that this next stage comes with a lot of challenges. But they are ones we are expecting and are ready to tackle. We believe that the outcomes are worth the hard work. We hope you will too!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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