Swimming to Protect Our Oceans

September 13, 2021

Swimming to Protect Our Oceans

By Mika Leandro

It was 7 am on a Saturday on a beach in Marseille just over a week ago. I was both excited and a little nervous. In about an hour, people would be diving into the sea to demand that we stop destructive fishing and ban bottom trawling in protected areas, but would people come?

Would the EU Oceans Commissioner listen to this urgent demand from those diving and also from 150,000 of us from across Europe? [1]

What a relief as the first people started arriving and getting ready to dive into the sea. The media started setting themselves up. It was happening!

After a year and a half of COVID restrictions, it was a joy to speak to WeMove Europe members. Laurent told me about his experience as a sailor, having to make his way around massive abandoned nets from trawlers that were so big that it was incredibly tricky not to get caught up in them. He had seen the damage first-hand and wanted action.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fishing stepped onto the beach in his suit.

He listened to Maya Gabeira, a world champion big wave surfer, who rides 20m high waves and knows the power of the ocean.

She talked about how much we need the oceans and all the life down there we can’t see. But bottom trawling in European waters impacts an area as big as one-third of Europe every year. It leaves nothing but wasteland where there once was a thriving ecosystem of corals, fish and underwater mammals. [2]

Maya mentioned the latest science that shows bottom trawling releases as much carbon as air travel. [3]

The Commissioner acknowledged that what Maya has said is all true, but that economics and livelihoods need to be taken into account. Yet he also said that it’s hard to ignore the crowd and the discussion on banning bottom trawling has to happen. He then gave a countdown and we ran into the sea.

We know he is under a lot of pressure from the industrial fishing lobby. So, that’s why we made sure he was receiving thousands of tweets and emails from all over Europe calling for the ban at the same time as we were on the beach.

The story got some great press coverage in many languages and across the whole of Europe. [4] We know this helps put pressure on decision-makers.

And we’re not going to stop anytime soon. With our partners Oceana, Seas At Risk and Our Fish we’re planning a big action in Brussels in December to ensure the Commission includes a ban on bottom trawling as part of the EU action plan for the ocean, expected next year. [5] Together, we already helped get the EU Parliament on board, now let’s work together to get the Commission to follow through.

References: [1] https://act.wemove.eu/campaigns/bottom-trawling [2] https://europe.oceana.org/en/press-center/press-releases/oceana-urges-bold-action-ban-bottom-trawling-europes-protected-areas [3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/17/trawling-for-fish-releases-as-much-carbon-as-air-travel-report-finds-climate-crisis https://our.fish/publications/briefing-paper-ending-overfishing-is-climate-action/ [4] Media articles: In French https://www.bfmtv.com/marseille/bain-de-mer-a-marseille-pour-alerter-sur-l-impact-climatique-du-chalutage-de-fond_AD-202109040141.html https://www.rfi.fr/es/sociedad/20210904-campeona-brasile%C3%B1a-de-surf-se-ba%C3%B1a-con-ong-en-francia-contra-la-pesca-de-arrastre https://www.sciencesetavenir.fr/nature-environnement/bain-de-mer-a-marseille-pour-alerter-sur-l-impact-climatique-du-chalutage-de-fond_157285 https://www.msn.com/fr-xl/actualite/technologie-et-sciences/bain-de-mer-%C3%A0-marseille-pour-alerter-sur-l-impact-climatique-du-chalutage-de-fond/ar-AAO5Feb?li=BBKNXVj https://www.ouest-france.fr/mer/salon-nautique-de-paris/peche-un-rapport-denonce-un-chalutage-intensif-dans-les-aires-marines-protegees-8e2f2990-0e37-11ec-8af2-d250ac520fa1 In Spanish https://es.noticias.yahoo.com/campeona-brasile%C3%B1a-surf-ba%C3%B1a-ong-095855471.html In Italian https://it.euronews.com/2021/09/04/tonno-salvo-squalo-no-la-nuova-lista-rossa-delle-specie-a-rischio In Portuguese https://pt.euronews.com/2021/09/04/quase-30-das-especies-do-planeta-ameacadas In Albanian https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n-76Ru9dXzM [5] https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12953-Action-plan-to-conserve-fisheries-resources-and-protect-marine-ecosystems_en

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