West Marine awarded the BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool the grand prize Thursday in its second annual Green Product of the Year contest.
The $10,000 prize was presented this morning at the Miami International Boat Show to the product's inventor, retired Alaska charter fisherman Ace Callaway.
A study of the problems of fatal barotrauma in deepwater game fish by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department turned into a problem-solving quest for Callaway. His invention is a simple, effective and low-cost way to reduce fish mortality rates.
Callaway knew that deepwater species had a high mortality rate because of the change in pressure from their habitat to the water's surface. The study, however, showed that fish fatalities could be nearly eliminated if the fish immediately were returned to their natural environment.
After experimenting with methods such as baskets, bent wires and barbless fish hooks, Callaway found that either the fish was swimming away before reaching the appropriate depth or it was being injured in the process.
"I have always wanted to leave this world a better place than I found it and I feel this release will save thousands of fish," Callaway said. "Hopefully this device will be my legacy that will help to preserve what I have come to enjoy and love so much - fishing."
Designed to reduce the effects of barotrauma on deepwater fish, the BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool clamps firmly but safely onto the fish's jaw and is lowered by hand, downrigger or rod and reel. A weight supplied by the angler pulls the fish down until the device hits bottom and automatically releases.
Testing revealed that a 5-pound weight works on fish that weigh as much as 20 pounds. The BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool has been safely tested with weights of as much as 30 pounds for larger fish.
"The BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool addresses a real problem in a way that is simple, effective and affordable," said Randy Kochevar, a marine biologist at Stanford University. "Using this innovative tool, any fisherman can make sure that a fish returned to the wild has the best possible chance of survival."
The annual competition is open to manufacturers, distributors and/or inventors of boating products in the United States.