At least 300,000 dolphins, whales and porpoises drown after becoming entangled in fishing equipment every single year. This accidental catch is called “by-catch” and is now happening at such a scale that it’s pushing many of these much-loved and charismatic species to the brink of extinction.
Fishtek Marine, a small company founded by Devon-based brothers Pete and Ben Kibel, aims to do something about this. They’ve developed ‘pingers’; little devices that attach to fishing nets and give off a small amount of sound, alerting dolphins, whales and porpoises to the presence of fishing nets and stopping them becoming entangled. While the idea is simple, the implementation was not, as the pingers have to resist depth of up to 1,000 metres while withstanding the rigours of commercial fishing. It took Pete and Ben seven years, but they’ve finally developed a pinger that is incredibly effective (in some trials, literally reducing the by-catch by 100%!) while being robust and cheap enough to be viable for fishermen to use, in turn saving those fishermen the costs associated with repeatedly repairing nets that have been damaged by ensnared dolphins.
I first heard about Fishtek Marine through Triodos, a bank that specialises in ethical investment and who were running Fishtek Marine’s fundraising campaign. While I’ve been a professional film-maker for almost a decade, I (slightly unusually!) also happen to have a degree in oceanography and a master’s degree in environmental technology. As such, the work that Fishtek Marine were doing seemed really interesting to me, so I got in touch to see if I might be able to help out. Having spoken to many of the team, I loved their ethos. It become very clear that the company is not just some money-grabbing manufacturer of widgets, but they’re really punching far above their weight in terms of their own contribution to marine conservation.
They’re not just making pingers, but I’ll leave you to watch the video to find out what else they’re up to.