Activists call for better protection of Ireland’s marine life at Dublin protest

Demonstration represents funeral procession for dead sea life, organisers say

Extinction Rebellion protesters and other environmental activists dragged a fish trawler through Dublin city centre on Monday calling for better protection for Ireland’s oceans and marine life.

A protest of about 50 people, which included members of the Irish Wildlife Trust and marine conservation group Sea Change, marched from the Garden of Remembrance, down O'Connell Street and over to Nassau Street, stopping outside Leinster House and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on Kildare Street.

The trawler, which contained a wooden coffin stating, “If the seas die we die”, was pulled along the streets by activists dressed as dead fish in skeletal masks while marine sounds were played from a speaker. Organisers said the demonstration represented a funeral procession for dead sea life with protesters dressed in black and carrying white crosses and marine bones.

Manuel Salazar, a member of Extinction Rebellion, said the protest was to call on the Government to end the fishing practice of bottom trawling, which involves towing a fishing net along the sea floor.


“The net is dragged all along the bottom of the ocean in order to try and catch as much fish as possible – the problem with this is it is completely destroying our sea floor ecosystem and the scientists are saying as well that it is one of the biggest culprits of climate change because it has massive CO2 emissions,” Mr Salazar said.

"We are also asking the Government to increase the number of marine protected areas to at least 30 per cent by the year 2030. Right now it only covers between 1 and 2 per cent. The EU Commission is actually accusing Ireland of not doing enough in terms of illegal fishing and also to increase MPAs [marine protected areas]."

Padraic Fogarty, ecologist and member of the Irish Wildlife Trust, said the demonstration was important to "highlight the destruction of the ocean".

“The ocean is so important to us all, whether we realise it or not and it’s dying. Basically, that’s the bottom line. I think it’s wonderful what Extinction Rebellion are doing here today to highlight that,” Mr Fogarty said.

“We’ve been doing nothing about this. We’ve known for a long time that the oceans are being destroyed through overfishing, through damaging fishing practices, pollution and so on.

“Basically, we’ve done absolutely nothing about it and on the flip side it’s probably one of the easiest things we could do something about because we just have to close off large areas of the sea to fishing. The science shows us that if we do that, marine life has a chance of recovery.”

Mr Fogarty said the ocean is at risk of collapse “on a number of fronts”.

“It’s not only being depleted of its marine life, it’s warming, it’s running out of oxygen, it’s acidifying through the absorption of carbon dioxide in particular, and through global warming it’s rising so it’s going to have a direct affect on anybody living near the coast,” he added.

“We receive one in every two breaths from the ocean because it produces so much oxygen so the actual collapse of the ocean ecosystem really is too frightening to even think about.”

Environmental activist Flossie Donnelly (14) said the issue "affects all of our futures".

"Only 1 per cent of Irish waters are protected and the target for Europe is 30 per cent and we don't have that yet, despite the fact we have some of the most amazing marine life. That's not protected and that's absolutely heart breaking," she said.

Flossie’s mother, Harriet, said they find “so much marine life just washed up” during their beach clean-ups.

“You see seals, dolphins; it’s heartbreaking and the increase of it is unbelievable,” she said.

“We’re so rich in marine life, we’re one of the luckiest countries in the world to have the amount of marine life on the shores of Ireland so it’s appalling it’s not protected. Seventy per cent of the planet is water so we need to do everything we can to protect it.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times