Four years ago we sought public help 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. Our ambition is for every longline fishery around the world to use Hookpods, minimising bycatch for birds and turtles. You can help make this a reality with your support.
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 .
The Hookpod works by enclosing the barb of the hook in polycarbonate capsule, with a clever patented pressure release mechanism that relies on the water pressure at depth to fire a piston, and open the device, releasing the hook to start fishing. It's reliable, strong and lasts for upto 3 years in normal fishing operations.
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.
Ultimately, we hope that seeding vessels in this way will lead to widespread, international adoption of the Hookpod. It has already been recommended as best practice mitigation by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. Demonstrating it's widespread commercial use, effectiveness and impact on reducing more than one type of bycatch could have major implications for fisheries management around the world.
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 .
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 crowdfundrasing the Hookpod has been improved and refined over the last 4 years to reduce seabird bycatch levels to near zero where deployed.
With the hook covered in the pod, the fishing gear reaches 20m depth, deeper than the diving depth of most seabirds and deeper than the normal feeding depths of turtles, and the pressure release mechanism opens the pod and the baited hook falls out and is ready to fish.
When fishing is completed, the hook and pod on the line is hauled onboard. 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 .
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.
We are delighted to have the support of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as part of this project, in addition to the supporters below. Supporter links:
Ian Newton - https://britishbirds.co.uk
Chris Packham - www.chrispackham.co.uk
Andy Clements - https://www.bto.org
Photo by Chris Packham
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)