The brothers were granted a European patent for the Hookpod in 2016, which was important in attracting the investment needed to launch and market it. “A patent provides security so that if a funder backs it, they have a time window in which the product can be sold, and they can recover their investment,” says Ben. Moreover, according to Ben and Pete, the device's relative simplicity means their patent is critical to prevent others from copying it. Without patent protection, the brothers say that poor-quality imitations could damage their invention's reputation among longline fishing operators.
Several decades after encouraging the Kibels’ interest and concerns for wildlife, Sir David Attenborough returned their appreciation of his work. Writing about the plight of the albatross in a product endorsement, he said: “Every day, hundreds of albatrosses die in longline fisheries…. If every pelagic longline fishing fleet used Hookpods, I believe we can stop the accidental death of these magnificent ocean wanderers.”
Research published in 2017 compiling the results of 18 sea trials, found that one seabird death occurred per 25 000 hooks using a Hookpod, compared with one per 1 250 hooks without the device – a 95% reduction. No difference was found in target catch rates. If all longline fishing operations globally used the devices, and deaths occurred at the same rate as during those trials, the lives of some 285 000 seabirds could be saved annually.
Small businesses with big environmental ambitions
The Kibel brothers have established a number of SMEs, each providing solutions to improve the sustainability of marine-based industries. They set up their first business, Fishtek Ltd. in 1998, initially using their own money and any time they could spare from their other professions. In 2013, the brothers launched a separate business, Hookpod Ltd. to raise investment and bring the device to market. Since then, they have also launched different versions of the product, including one that uses a built-in LED. This is designed to replace the chemical light sticks which are used to attract fish, but often end up as plastic pollution.
In 2018, the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), which protects highly migratory fish in the region, recognised the brothers’ invention as the world’s first standalone method of reducing accidental seabird deaths. The New Zealand government followed suit in 2019, and New Zealand-based vessels using the device recorded zero bycatch in the first half of 2020. A trial is planned for 2021 in China, in collaboration with the Paulson Institute and a longline fishing company, to explore the impact of Hookpods in the Chinese fleets.
Help make Hookpod the popular choice....
As part of the EPO Inventor Award, you can vote for Pete, Ben and Hookpod on a daily basis by logging your vote here
This prize is separate to the Small and Medium Enterprise category which the brothers and Hookpod have been nominated for and is solely decided by the number of votes - every vote counts so please take two minutes to help if you can.
We will be keeping you updated on the Award as we approach the finals in June. Fingers crossed for Pete, Ben and the Hookpod!