Celebrities rally behind overfishing campaign
Published:  13 December, 2017

A host of celebrities have shown their support for a campaign to bring an end to overfishing. 

The Fishlove campaign was first created in 2009 by Nicholas Röhl, co-owner of Japanese restaurant Moshimo in Brighton, alongside actress Greta Scacchi to raise awareness of unsustainable fishing practices.

To promote the campaign’s latest call for action, a number of famous faces lent their names, and bodies, to the cause. Actresses Jessie Buckley, Imelda Staunton and Rula Lenska, former professional darts player Bobby George and actor Tom Bateman are among the names to show their support. To help spread the Fishlove message, a series of nude portraits have been released depicting the celebrities with endangered fish.

For example, actress and director Florence Keith-Roach (pictured) can be seen posing with a European eel, which has become virtually extinct due to overfishing and hydropower plants.

According to Fishlove, less than 2% of the original population of the European eel is left, with scientists calling for a complete ban for all fisheries and to reduce all human-induced mortality to zero.

“98.4% of the European eel population is already gone,” said Keith-Roach. “Continuing to fish for them is like hunting pandas. EU member states must help save this species from extinction by supporting a ban on eel fishing in European seas.”

Fishlove highlighted that an estimated 55% of European fish stock are being overfished, regardless of laws to prevent it. EU member states have previously met to outline a strategy to end overfishing by 2020 at the latest.

“European countries have the power to end overfishing – and with just two years left until the 2020 deadline, what’s needed is political will to act on behalf of EU citizens,” commented Rebecca Hubbard, programme director for Our Fish, a group dedicated to ending the practice.

“The benefits of ending overfishing are already known and accepted – sustainable fishing means healthier fish stocks, more jobs and profit for fishers, and a healthier marine environment. It’s high time that European fisheries ministers start representing all EU citizens, not just the interests of a few big industry players, and start following the laws they have already signed up to.”

Nils Höglund, policy officer for Coalition Clean Baltic claimed that ministers have set fishing quotas too far removed from scientific advice in the past and not in line with agreed EU law.

“The eel has been sidelined and has been slowly disappearing in front of our eyes for decades, although scientists have spent 17 years calling for eel mortality to be as close to zero as possible,” said Höglund.

“We fish and eat a critically endangered species – 98% of which are gone – but lack the stomach to discuss what we have done to the eel.”

All of the fish shown in the portraits are commercially fished. Fishlove believes the use of the fish in the images are justified to raise awareness for its campaign. None of the fish were caught specifically for the purpose of the portraits and, other than in unusual circumstances, were consumed afterwards.

Significant quota increases

Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) announced today (13th December) that the government had secured a significant quota increase for key stocks as part of this year’s annual negotiations. Included in the settlement are an increase in quotas of North Sea cod, haddock and monkfish. Furthermore, stocks of cod and haddock are now accredited as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

While some challenges remain, such as reviving stocks of haddock and megrim in the Celtic Sea, there has been an increased quotas such as Western skates and rays (+15%), Bristol Channel plaice (+49%), sole (+9%) and Celtic Sea cod (+11%).

A package of measures, has also been agreed on sea bass to reverse the decline around the English coast. Negotiations saw fishing opportunities worth more than £250 million agreed to at the negotiations.

“The UK has long championed sustainable fishing and that is starting to yield results in some areas, with a recovery in key stocks and increased quota as a result,” said fisheries minister George Eustice.

“Challenges remain in areas like the Celtic Sea and on iconic species such as bass, so further restrictions have been needed. As we prepare to leave the EU, we will place science-based fisheries management at the heart of future policy.”