Stop Destroying Our Oceans
May 20, 2022
In May of 2021, our community got involved in the fight to ban bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This practice causes more irreversible damage to the seabed than any other human activity in the world. It effectively turns our precious marine ecosystems into a wasteland.
In this destructive fishing practice, fishing nets as tall as a three-storey building and as wide as a football field scoop up the seabed every day. In seconds, these nets destroy everything in their path - killing dolphins, seals, corals, seahorses and hundreds of other marine species. Once coral and starfish are destroyed, fish and species dependent on them for spawning, shelter, nurseries, protection, and food, may also disappear.
This campaign is about more than just stopping bad things from happening. It’s about proposing a different vision for the oceans, as systems of life that are not for sale.
Back when we got involved in May 2021, a vote in the European Parliament’s environment committee turned the tide toward an end to bottom trawling. The fishing lobby was working hard to prevent a ban. But our community built support for a massive petition targeted toward our Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) - and we sent tweets and emails to key members of the environment committee.
The win in the environment committee was decisive, and about two weeks later, the issue went to the full plenary of the European Parliament. It would be a lot harder to move the entire European Parliament on this issue, but the power of community is strong when we work together. By the thousands, we contacted MEPs asking them to vote against bottom trawling. And they did - they sent a strong message to the European Commission that the new Oceans Strategy should ban bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas.
In August 2021, we decided to follow up with the European Commission directly. The European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, was attending an international conservation conference in Marseilles. So, with partners, we organised an event by the sea in support of our oceans and against bottom trawling. The Commissioner came, as did our partners and some of our local community members!
And in December 2021, we approached this Commission again. This time, we met them in Brussels, right outside their office. Small donations from this community were able to fund an illustrator to make a pop-up book about two European Commissioners going on an adventure.
This scene grabbed headlines in many languages and across the whole of Europe! From Le Monde, the European Commission media review, to the Irish Examiner, and Handelsblatt. Our community kept the pressure high by simultaneously sending more than 40,000 emails to Sinkevičius and Timmermans, demanding a ban on bottom-trawling in the Oceans Action Plan.
And thanks to the power of this community we took over the front pages of Politico magazine. By each chipping in a little, thousands of us ensured we had the resources to move fast and buy the ad space needed. Politico is plastered throughout the offices of EU decision makers, so politicians including Sinkevičius could see it as they shuffled to meetings or took a coffee break.
In May 2022, in the lead-up to a key vote in the European Parliament, we again sent thousands of messages to our MEPs. And our partners Oceana Europe, Our Fish, Seas at Risk and others put door hangers on MEP’s door to remind them of our message.
And they listened to us! MEPs called on the EU to prohibit bottom trawling. Our voice was stronger than that of the industrial fisheries, but it was a close call! The result came right as the European Commission is writing the EU Oceans Action Plan, which will set the rules for how we protect and restore our oceans for years to come. There’s more reason than ever to hope that the EU will turn the tide on destructive fishing and have healthy, thriving and resilient seas.