Our Fish is a campaign that works across Europe to end overfishing and restore a healthy ocean ecosystem. It’s a vitally important goal: overfishing destroys fish stocks, takes a grim toll on marine biodiversity, and jeopardises livelihoods and food security. Yet almost 10 years after legislating to put an end to the practice, European governments are still ignoring scientific advice and allowing their fleets to fish at totally unsustainable levels. For the sake of everyone’s future, such short-term thinking has to stop – but what’s the most effective way of changing decision-makers’ minds, and getting them to take real action for long-term fishery sustainability?
The core of the Our Fish strategy has been to expand this issue beyond the limited fisheries space, into the wider arena of climate change – showing that ending overfishing has an important role in climate change mitigation. We were asked to work with Our Fish to evolve a fisheries/climate narrative strategy to achieve a greater impact with their target audience – ultimately, EU decision-makers – to make them enforce their own rules and put an end to overfishing.
Approach and delivery
Our approach was to first understand the knowledge gaps and message steps necessary to bring audiences along the fisheries to climate journey. Making full use of our deep sector knowledge and wide network of connections across the ocean space, we convened a series of meetings and workshops with key audiences and influencers. Through these we built an understanding of prevailing attitudes, identified knowledge gaps, and brainstormed and evaluated a range of approaches to solve the messaging challenges that emerged. By testing potential solutions with different stakeholder groups – fishers, governments, administrators, the media, scientific advisors, and so on – we honed an approach that positioned fish in an Earth System context and began promoting their role as Carbon Engineers. We produced a toolkit to assist everyone involved in the project and enable them to use the new narrative to maximum effect: this included everything from a review of the scientific literature to sample social media posts, op-eds, infographics and more.
The Carbon Engineers approach was introduced at UNFCCC COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, and enabled the Our Fish team to engage with a much broader spectrum of people than would normally be interested in questions of fisheries management. The message is beginning to cut through to a wider audience, including specialist groups, the climate-concerned and the general public – and as it spreads, pressure on EU decision-makers increases.