Making Waves | Inspirational Ocean Films

Off the coasts of the British Isles and across Europe, sustainable sea projects are trying to reverse the damage done by bottom trawlers. Watch these powerful short films and join the campaign to Protect Our Ocean.

27th July 2023 | Words by Matt Jones @ WildBounds HQ

Historically, seafarers who had spent a lifetime afloat were said to have sailed the Seven Seas. And geographically, the massive body of saltwater that covers approximately 72% of the Earth’s surface is divided into five distinct oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Arctic, the Indian and the Southern or Antarctic Ocean.

But really, there is only one global ocean. Its shared seas connect us all, through food, culture and sport. This shared ocean is also home to amazing, abundant marine life, and can be a powerful climate solution too.

Yet the practice of bottom trawling threatens to destroy this precious resource – bulldozing our ocean floor, undermining small-scale fisheries, and deepening the climate crisis. Bottom trawling is one of the most damaging practices that humans inflict on our oceans, destroying seabed ecosystems, overfishing, and indiscriminately killing everything from turtles and rays to sharks.

It has an enormous climate impact too. Dragging nets along the seabed uses more fuel and produces four times more emissions than other types of fishing. It disturbs carbon-absorbing sediment and eradicates the marine plants and animals that take in carbon from the atmosphere. Oceans absorb a quarter of all the carbon dioxide that we produce, yet the practice of bottom trawling threatens to destroy this precious resource.

As an island nation, Britain should care more than most. From Cornish surfers to North Sea fishing boat crews, the seas around our shores are indelibly entwined with British cultures and livelihoods. In short, we must protect our ocean so it can protect us.


Protect Our Ocean

That’s the hard-hitting message behind a new global environmental campaign, focused on ocean protection and restoration, that launched on 8 June 2023 – coinciding with World Ocean Day.

Who’s behind this campaign? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is spearheaded by one of the outdoor industry’s most stridently outspoken brands: Patagonia. The company is working with European campaign partners including the NGOs Bloom, Blue Ventures, ClientEarth, Environmental Justice Foundation, Oceana, and Seas At Risk. The campaign launches at a critical moment for Europe’s marine protection, with an escalating biodiversity crisis and heated debate in the news on Europe-wide initiatives such as the Nature Restoration Law and Ocean Action Plan.

What’s happening? Through a series of films, an online petition and activism events across Europe, Patagonia is mobilising people and calling on governments to end bottom trawling, starting with an immediate ban in marine protected areas and inshore zones.

Watch the Films

A series of inspirational short documentary films have been produced that promote regenerative alternatives such as 3D ocean seaweed farming and restoring seagrass. With small-scale, low impact fishers making up around half of Europe’s fishing workforce, often impacted by bottom trawling, it is also offering them a platform and calling for them to be supported as they make more sustainable transitions for the future.

The films tell the stories of people around the world, from South Korea to Chilean Patagonia. Closer to home, coastal restoration is also happening in places like Pembrokeshire in Wales, Scotland’s West Coast, in Southern Portugal and in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. Individuals and collectives have taken matters into their own hands to demonstrate how we can work with, not against, our ocean.

The Custodians

Over the last 40 years, commercial overfishing and bottom trawling have turned Scotland’s once-thriving west coast waters into sparse, lifeless deserts. The Custodians follows the work of four locals from the West Coast of Scotland, who are reclaiming their natural coastlines, restoring wildlife and creating more sustainable marine industries.

For the Love of the Sea

This film tells the story of Nikki Spill of The Seaweed Farmers and partners Câr y Môr, a regenerative ocean farm in Pembrokeshire. This family-run, community-owned farm is pioneering a movement to revive the beautiful South Wales coastline and breathe new life into a fishing industry that locals have depended on for decades. Cultivating versatile crops like seaweed with zero-input techniques is a powerful way to help fight climate change while nourishing people – in more ways than one.

Madre Mar

Madre Mar focuses on marine biologist Raquel Gaspar and a group of local fisherwomen who are restoring the seagrass meadows of the Sado Estuary Natural Reserve in Portugal, slowly reversing the damage done by bottom trawling. Local people have worked these waters for centuries, coexisting with the dolphins, fish and shellfish, supported by the region’s rich seagrass meadows. But the bottom trawlers nearly wiped out this crucial piece of the ocean’s ecosystem – despite the fact that the world’s seagrass meadows not only provide vital habitats for sea life, but also comprise 10 percent of the carbon captured in the ocean.

L'arte dell'attivismo

Italian fisherman Paolo Fanciulli tried everything to stop bottom trawlers from destroying the precious underwater meadows and corals of his beloved Mediterranean Sea. For 37 years, he denounced them publicly in newspapers, linked arms with environmental organisations and even attacked the trawlers himself, in a dinghy. Nothing worked – until Paolo came up with a plan to place more than 800 concrete sculptures on the ocean floor. The art didn’t just create habitats for the fish. It inspired a movement to save the sea from destruction.

How you can help

If you’d like to see more of these powerful ocean films, they’re being screened across Europe this summer, at a series of free events featuring expert panels, music and stories.

You can also sign the petition to end bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas and inshore zones. Beth Thoren, environmental action & initiatives director, EMEA, Patagonia, said: “Throughout my life, I have always felt connected to the ocean, from my early career as a ship engineer to, later, being a crew mate on a Sea Shepherd boat, fighting whale hunting in Antarctica. But I am not alone. Wherever we are, every second breath we take comes from the ocean. It is imperative that we protect this precious and fragile resource, so it can protect us.

“Our European leaders have the power in their hands to make lasting positive change by stopping bottom trawling and supporting a just transition to practices that restore the ocean. We’re asking ocean defenders everywhere, from surfers, swimmers and those who simply love to walk or paddle at the beach, to coastal communities and fishers, to link arms and send the message that we care.”

Learn more and sign the petition here

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