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The winners of the Ocean Awards 2018

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The Innovation Award: Ben Kibel

Inventor of ProGlow, an endurable, reusable alternative lightstick

This award recognises the individual, company or group that has done the most to drive innovation for the benefit of the health of the ocean. This could include business operations which are not undertaken at the expense of the marine environment or development of the most promising new technology (or technologies) for the benefit of the marine environment.

In 1999, Ben Kibel, a mechanical engineer, and his brother, Pete, a fisheries specialist and biologist, founded Fishtek Marine to develop gadgets that make fishing less harmful to marine life and to the environment. When fishing for swordfish, fishers tend to use chemical lightsticks or glowsticks to attract the fish. They are highly polluting if they are discarded in the ocean, which about 700 million are each year. They are also expensive: about 10 per cent of a fishermen’s expenses. Fishtek’s solution, ProGlow, is an inexpensive, endurable, reusable alternative, weighing just 17 grams and depth-rated to 1,000 metres. There are three models with varying degrees of brightness, all fuelled by two replaceable AAA batteries, and the basic model should last two years.

The Kibels were also exercised by bycatch, the unintended harming of turtles, sharks, cetaceans and especially seabirds. Hookpod is a transparent pod fitted to the line that encapsulates the point of the hook and barb, releasing it only when it sinks between 10 metres and 15 metres below the surface of the ocean, where water pressure activates the mechanism. At that depth the bait will no longer be swooped on by albatrosses, petrels or shearwaters, which cannot dive that deep. The pod is retrieved when the line is hauled in and can be reused, so there’s no waste. The Hookpod company was formed in 2013, and the device has been successfully trialled in Brazil, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, though Hookpod remains based in Devon, UK. As the company’s slogan puts it: save money, save time, save seabirds.

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