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Ben and Pete Kibel named European Inventor Award 2021 finalists


  • British brothers nominated for European Patent Workplace (EPO) prize for his or her machine that reduces unintentional seabird deaths in longline fishing
  • Stress-sensitive pod covers hooks on the sea floor however opens when bait sinks to depth of 20 metres
  • In trials, the know-how lower seabird deaths by 95% with out decreasing catch charges

Munich, 4 Might 2021 – The European Patent Workplace (EPO) declares that British brothers Ben and Pete Kibel have been nominated as finalists within the “SMEs” class of the European Inventor Award 2021 for his or her invention of a easy, low-cost machine that forestalls the unintentional deaths of seabirds throughout longline fishing.

An estimated 300 000 seabirds, together with many endangered species of albatross, die yearly as marine fishing bycatch. To mitigate the issue and make business fishing extra focused and sustainable, engineer Ben and fisheries biologist Pete pooled their abilities and sources to develop the Hookpod, a small, reusable machine that encapsulates baited hooks till they sink to a depth inaccessible to seabirds. The brothers have established three SMEs to market this machine and their different innovations that scale back bycatch in international fisheries.

Kibel Brothers

“The Kibel brothers have mixed ingenuity with their dedication to the setting to develop an answer that protects susceptible marine life,” stated EPO President António Campinos, saying the European Inventor Award 2021 finalists. “As SME founders in addition they set an instance to new companies – their patent technique has enabled them to guard their mental property, scale-up manufacturing and develop new merchandise.”

The winners of the 2021 version of the EPO’s annual innovation prize might be introduced at a ceremony beginning at 19:00 CEST on 17 June which has this 12 months been reimagined as a digital occasion for a worldwide viewers.

From a love of wildlife to an progressive technical resolution
As kids, an curiosity within the wildlife documentaries of famend British pure historical past broadcaster Sir David Attenborough instilled within the brothers each a ardour for the pure world and concern for the injury inflicted upon it by people. “His movies would usually spotlight the plight of endangered species,” says Ben Kibel. “We’ve all the time been very conscious that what people are doing to the planet and to wildlife isn’t sustainable.” As adults, the brothers determined to take motion and develop options to the issue of marine bycatch – the incidental catching of non-target species, corresponding to dolphins, turtles and seabirds.

Longline fishing, a method extensively utilized by business operators to catch tuna, swordfish and different species within the open sea, entails the usage of traces which are tens of kilometres lengthy, carrying hundreds of hooks every. It’s controversial as a result of giant numbers of marine animals apart from these focused are hooked and killed, together with an estimated 300 000 seabirds every year. Conservationists are particularly involved concerning the tens of hundreds of albatrosses that die this fashion yearly – the Worldwide Union for Dialog of Nature lists many of the 22 species as susceptible, threatened or endangered.

The brothers centered on utilizing Ben’s engineering experience to develop a easy however efficient mechanical repair. “It could have been straightforward to develop a classy digital depth-related system, however that may by no means have been operationally viable,” says Pete. “The design problem we confronted was in making one thing that’s bulletproof in harsh environments and may be mass produced for just some {dollars}.” The Hookpod is a transparent, polycarbonate capsule that’s clipped over the factors and barbs of longline fishing hooks. On the floor, this prevents scavenging seabirds from getting caught on the hooks by bodily blocking their entry to them. The core of the machine is a pressure-operated mechanism that consists of a watertight tube containing a piston and a small amount of trapped air. As soon as the encapsulated hook sinks to twenty metres under the floor – out of vary for many seabirds – the power generated by the water stress on the top of the piston turns into larger than the power performing in the other way, driving the piston inwards because of this. The piston continues to maneuver till it releases a latch, which opens the machine and releases the baited hook. When the fishing session is full, fishermen can merely clip the Hookpod shut for subsequent use.

The brothers had been granted a European patent for the Hookpod in 2016, which was vital in attracting the funding wanted to launch and promote it. “A patent offers safety in order that if a funder backs it, they’ve a time window by which the product may be offered, and so they can recuperate their funding,” says Ben. Furthermore, based on Ben and Pete, the machine’s relative simplicity means their patent is important to forestall others from copying it. With out patent safety, the brothers say that poor-quality imitations may injury their invention’s fame amongst longline fishing operators.

A number of many years after encouraging the Kibels’ curiosity and issues for wildlife, Sir David Attenborough returned their appreciation of his work. Writing concerning the plight of the albatross in a product endorsement, he stated: “Day-after-day, a whole lot of albatrosses die in longline fisheries…. If each pelagic longline fishing fleet used Hookpods, I consider we are able to cease the unintentional demise of those magnificent ocean wanderers.”

Analysis revealed in 2017 compiling the outcomes of 18 sea trials, discovered that one seabird demise occurred per 25 000 hooks utilizing a Hookpod, in contrast with one per 1 250 hooks with out the machine – a 95% discount. No distinction was present in goal catch charges. If all longline fishing operations globally used the gadgets, and deaths occurred on the identical price as throughout these trials, the lives of some 285 000 seabirds might be saved yearly.

Small companies with large environmental ambitions
The Kibel brothers have established quite a lot of SMEs, every offering options to enhance the sustainability of marine-based industries. They arrange their first enterprise, Fishtek Ltd. in 1998, initially utilizing their very own cash and any time they might spare from their different professions. In 2013, the brothers launched a separate enterprise, Hookpod Ltd. to boost funding and convey the machine to market. Since then, they’ve additionally launched completely different variations of the product, together with one which makes use of a built-in LED. That is designed to switch the chemical gentle sticks that are used to draw fish, however usually find yourself as plastic air pollution.

In 2018, the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Fee (WCPFC), which protects extremely migratory fish within the area, recognised the brothers’ invention because the world’s first standalone technique of decreasing unintentional seabird deaths. The New Zealand authorities adopted go well with in 2019, and New Zealand-based vessels utilizing the machine recorded zero bycatch within the first half of 2020. A trial is underway in China, in collaboration with the Paulson Institute and a longline fishing firm, to discover the affect of two 000 Hookpods utilized by two longline fishing vessels.

Three years after establishing Hookpod Ltd., the brothers launched their third enterprise, Fishtek Marine, to commercialise extra innovations, together with a tool that emits electrical fields to drive sharks, rays and skates away from fishing hooks, and one other that makes use of sound to cut back cetacean bycatch. Following a crowdfunding marketing campaign, Fishtek Marine Ltd. just lately raised EUR 1 million to additional its analysis and improvement, advertising and recruitment.

Notes to the editor

Concerning the inventors
Along with watching pure historical past documentaries, Ben Kibel (born in Serowe, Botswana, in 1968) additionally loved fixing technical issues as a toddler. This advanced right into a eager curiosity in science and engineering, and, in 1992, he based Eco Electrical to make use of his engineering abilities to develop environmentally pleasant merchandise, together with wind turbine know-how. Alongside his brother Pete, Ben went on to arrange Fishtek Ltd., in 1998 and Hookpod Ltd. in 2013. In 2016, the brothers arrange Fishtek Marine Ltd., as a separate firm for his or her bycatch discount applied sciences. Ben is a Director at Hookpod Restricted, Fishtek Marine Ltd and Managing Director of Eco Electrical Restricted.

Childhood sea fishing journeys impressed Pete Kibel (born in South Africa in 1966) to turn into considering marine conservation. He accomplished a B.Sc. in Organic Science at Keble School, College of Oxford, and a M.Sc. in Utilized Fish Biology on the College of Plymouth. Pete is Managing Director of Fishtek Ltd., a fisheries consultancy and engineering firm. He’s additionally Managing Director of Fishtek Marine Ltd., and a Director at Hookpod Ltd.

Ben and Pete Kibel filed a European patent software for the Hookpod in 2012 which was granted in 2016; see EP2731423.

View the video and photograph materials for Ben and Pete Kibel: https://www.epo.org/news-events/press/european-inventor-award/2021/kibel.html

Concerning the European Inventor Award
The European Inventor Award is one in every of Europe’s most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, it honours particular person inventors and groups of inventors whose pioneering innovations present solutions to a number of the largest challenges of our occasions. The finalists and winners are chosen by an unbiased jury consisting of worldwide authorities from the fields of enterprise, politics, science, academia and analysis who study the proposals for his or her contribution in the direction of technical progress, social improvement, financial prosperity and job creation in Europe. The Award is conferred in 5 classes (Trade, Analysis, SMEs, Non-EPO nations and Lifetime achievement). As well as, the general public selects the winner of the Popular Prize from among the many 15 finalists by way of online voting.

Concerning the EPO
With 6 400 workers, the European Patent Office (EPO) is without doubt one of the largest public service establishments in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with workplaces in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was based with the goal of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. By way of the EPO’s centralised patent granting process, inventors are in a position to receive high-quality patent safety in as much as 44 nations, overlaying a market of some 700 million individuals. The EPO can also be the world’s main authority in patent data and patent looking.

Media contacts European Patent Workplace
Luis Berenguer Giménez
Principal Director Communication, Spokesperson
Tel.: +49 89 2399 1203



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