For the past month, the judges have been casting a discerning eye over the 15 finalists of the 2012 James Dyson Award and they’ve now made what no doubt was a difficult decision. Taking out the major prize is Dan Watson, who will receive £10,000 (US$16,000) for his SafetyNet system that tackles the problem of overfishing by providing escape exits for juvenile and non-target fish caught up in commercial fishing nets.

Watson is a graduate of the Royal College of Art in the U.K, which will also receive £10,000 (US$16,000) as a result of him taking the top honors. Since graduating, Watson has started a company to commercialize his idea, called SafetyNet Technologies. He plans to use the cash prize to develop a range of prototypes and finalize government testing of his design.

In awarding the prize, James Dyson said, “This tangible technology approaches a serious environmental problem, we should celebrate it. SafetyNet shows how young graduates like Dan can tackle global issues ignored by established industries in new and inventive ways.”

The two runners up, each of who will take home £2,000 (US$3,194), were the BETH Project from the USA, which is a low-cost, self-adjusting prosthetic limb aimed at the developing world, and the Revival Vest from New Zealand, which uses smart fabric technology to monitor for the changes in a diver’s body that occur when drowning and brings them safely to the surface.

Details of the SafetyNet, BETH Project and Revival Vest, along with the other 12 finalists, can be seen in our previous story showcasing the 15 finalists of the 2012 James Dyson Award.