Extinction Rebellion protesters called on G7 leaders on Thursday to take action to protect the world’s oceans in a demonstration that saw activists dressed up as mermaids tangled in discarded trawler nets.
The demonstration was held in St Ives, Cornwall, on the first day of the G7 Summit hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attended by G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
The rally was organised by Ocean Rebellion – an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion focused on protecting the world’s oceans.
In addition to the “mass stranding of mermaids”, the group also sounded a foghorn dingy outside the Tregenna Castle hotel, where delegates are staying to wake them “from their apathetic dreams,” Ocean Rebellion said.
The group sounded the foghorn in five long blasts – the maritime SOS signal – to warn of the “imminent death of the oceans should the G7 heads of state fail in their high duty to act”.
“We believe that there’s still time for them to make a difference,” Sophie Miller, a spokesperson for Ocean Rebellion told The Independent on Friday. “There’s still time for them to choose to do the right thing.”
There’s still time for them to cut their ties with fossil fuels and we want them to be brave and to step up and to act now
Sophie Miller, Ocean Rebellion
“There’s still time for them to act to stop catastrophic climate change,” she said. “There’s still time for them to cut their ties with fossil fuels and we want them to be brave and to step up and to act now.”
Ms Miller said the group is demanding that the G7 puts the world’s ocean at the top of the agenda.
The group has called for an “emergency global ban” on the practice of bottom trawling – a commercial fishing method that involves dragging heavy weighted nets across the sea floor to catch large numbers of fish – before the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, takes place.
“Bottom trawling emits more carbon than the whole of global aviation,” Ms Miller said. “So even if everybody stops now with bottom trawling carrying on... it’s not going to have enough of an impact.” A recent study suggested that fishing boats trawling the ocean floor release as much carbon dioxide as the entire aviation industry.
The spokesperson said G7 leaders must act to bring environmentally devastating intensive fishing methods to an end.
“We’re looking at total catastrophe. If the sea dies, we die,” Miller said.
The Marine Conservation Institute, a Seattle-based non-profit working to protect oceans worldwide, has long warned that “destructive fishing is among the most significant threats to productive oceans and healthy wildlife populations,” with 90 per cent global fish populations are fully-fished or overfished”.
“Overfishing – catching more fish than the ocean can produce – has been an ongoing challenge for fisheries managers for decades,” the institute says on its website.
Bottom trawling, the institute says, can also “cause tremendous damage to... surrounding ecosystems.”
“These nets are capable of destroying enormous swaths of fragile seafloor habitats, including fragile cold-water coral and sponge ecosystems,” it says. “Once destroyed, these ancient and ecologically vital communities may take decades or longer to recover”.
In a separate statement, Clive Russel of Ocean Rebellion said: “It’s time for the G7 heads of state to get a grip,”
“Bottom trawling alone represents 13 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions,” Russel said.
“It’s a no-brainer to ban it globally – industrial scale vandalism like this has no place on a living planet.”