Today, performers from Ocean Rebellion wearing ‘Fish Heads’ and pinstripe suits made a last minute plea to the UK Government to use their power and influence to end the war on fish. The ‘Fish Heads’ stood in pools of blood, dead fish and entrails outside the front entrance of DEFRA. The ‘Fish Heads’ carried briefcases with WAR ON FISH, ECOCIDE and MSC CERTIFIED LIES emblazoned on the side. 

In the background fishers unfurled a banner, ‘NO MORE FISH IN THE SEA’ highlighting the fate of the UK seas if the UK government turns against nature and doesn’t make a commitment to a better planet. Sunak’s failure to put nature first will leave UK seas at the mercy of greedy corporations and nations, like the owners of the trawler ‘Cornelius Vrojilk’ a dutch fishing company with permission to catch 23% of England’s fish. Earlier this year DEFRA body CEFAS published a report confirming that only 35% of UK fish stocks are set in line with scientific advice. UK Ministers have ignored CEFAS and set catch limits above scientific advice.

The Ocean generates half the oxygen we breathe and squirrels away huge quantities of ‘Blue Carbon’ which otherwise goes into overheating the atmosphere and acidifying the Ocean, leading to climate, nature and social collapse. Because world governments aren’t protecting Ocean biodiversity, the overfished Ocean is rapidly dying – AS THE SEA DIES WE DIE.  

The Ocean Rebellion ‘Fish Heads’ represent the blank face of fishing, policy making and treaty failures due to vested interests. From the front, they appear slick, smooth and businesslike. When they turn around you see the nature of their masks, ‘Fish Heads’ with their bodies brutally torn away. They leak blood on the ground, they crush fish in their hands and underfoot. They are the real nature of industrial fishing and the regulatory systems that ignore the science and, captured by industry, allow overfishing to continue year after year. The ‘Fish Heads’’ only interest is the money they make from waging a war on fish, they commit ecocide through greed. They will take anything they want from the sea while greenwashing their bloody business. They whisper in the ears of weak-minded politicians like Rishi Sunak, telling them they can take care of UK fish and fishers, all the UK needs to do is shred the EU laws. While all the time their plan is to grant fishing rights to large companies, destroying local fishers and decimating fish in UK waters.

The dead fish represent what is taken out of the sea above the natural capacity of the Ocean to recover, and the estimated 406,000 tonnes of marine life that is killed incidentally every year – and thrown dead overboard, unwanted marine life like Dolphins, Sharks and Turtles. Such waste of life and suffering is the outcome of years of reckless politics. These dead fish are also a sign of all the blue carbon industrial fishing releases, adding to global warming and pushing fragile communities to the edge of survival.

The UK Government recently published The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill and Planning and Infrastructure Bill. This bill outlines how 570 retained EU environmental laws (along with hundreds of others) will be gutted, rewritten or thrown overboard. These include the Habitats Regulations, which underpin half of UK Marine Protected Areas, as well as the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, Marine Strategy Regulations and many more relevant to marine habitat protection, fisheries, development and pollution. Laying the bill before parliament, the former business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said: “The bill will sunset the majority of retained EU law so that it expires on 31 December 2023. All retained EU law contained in domestic secondary legislation and retained direct EU legislation will expire on this date, unless otherwise preserved.” Plans to scrap or revise EU retained law were committed under Boris Johnson’s premiership, and were being sped up under Liz Truss, and now Rishi Sunak. This is despite the Conservative government being elected under a manifesto commitment to “the most ambitious environmental programme on Earth”. Given these laws have provided a legal basis for environmental regulation for over 40 years with the UK having played a key role in drafting most of them, scrapping these laws will provide a fishing free for all. There will be no time to replace them with suitable alternatives.

The UK must recognise its duty to future generations by regulating on behalf of the restoration and replenishment of the Ocean and marine life.

Ocean Rebellion demands that all EU laws governing fishing are strengthened in the UK by restricting all fishing in UK waters. By banning industrial fishing and promoting traditional fishing by small local vessels the UK can care for its sea and help coastal communities. 


Quotes from Ocean Rebellion

Sophie Miller says:
“How can UK ministers ignore the advice of their own experts? Surely if a commissioned report tells you UK fish stocks are at a dangerously low level you act on it? Are our MPs stupid or are they in the pocket of industrial fishing? Either of these options spells catastrophe.”

Suzanne Stallard adds:
“Overfishing is one of the most serious threats to our Ocean. It is the leading driver of marine biodiversity loss and critically undermines the resilience of fish and other wildlife to climate change. The UK government must strengthen EU regulation not weaken it – Brexit was sold to the public as a promise to improve environmental protection – the UK seas provide the perfect moment to fulfil this promise. The UK ministers must protect our seas by protecting UK marine life. End industrial fishing in UK waters now.”

Roc Sandford adds: 
“Fish stocks are severely depleted and overfished. Examples include: herring in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and southwest of Ireland; Western Atlantic horse mackerel; and Irish Sea whiting. But cod, an iconic and much-loved species, is in a particularly dire state, with all stocks, from the North Sea to the west of Scotland, Irish Sea or Celtic Sea, at historically low levels. For these severely overexploited species, scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommends either a major reduction in catches or no catches at all.”

Clive Russell adds: 
“The world must reduce fishing by 80% – talk about Marine Protected Areas and restricting fishing practice is getting us nowhere. Unless we have definitive aims we can’t protect the Ocean. Our 80% reduction puts an end to industrial fishing but recognises the value of low-impact fishing by local communities, communities which are disappearing because fish stocks are so low. An end to industrial fishing will place the fate of the Ocean in the hands of those who truly depend and understand it and out of reach of those who only exploit it.”

Photos by: Guy Reece

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