Clad in bright orange with shiny, red claws and goggly eyes, I showed my colourful support for 127 Marine Conservation Zones with nearly 2,000 other campaigners.
Led by the passionate and articulate TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the march was noisy, full of enthusiasm and harboured a real respect for the future of our seas.
The Marine Conservation Society, BSAC, Sea Life and marine lovers gathered by the South Bank in London and admired each other’s costumes, inflatables, face paint and jumped on the spot to keep warm. The atmosphere was carnival-like and the mood was buoyant; we were excited to make a change and show the government that action is needed now.
So why exactly were we all gathered in fish fancy dress and marching to Parliament, waving our banners and shouting for change? (Other than simply loving being dressed as a crab and walking sideways… probably the most fun I’ve had in a good while).
We came to save our seas – 127 Marine Conservation Zones around the UK have been identified as needing protection. But after millions of pounds and 18 months of consultation, the government has only set plans to create 31 MCZs by the end of this year.
That’s not enough. Addressing the crowd outside Parliament, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “This is the sort of opportunity that may not come again. We might not have such a vital and appropriate timeframe as we’ve got right now to make real changes.
“If we leave it too much later, too much damage will have been done. It will be hard for a lot of the areas to recover.”
The message I found poignant was that this is a change to benefit everyone – it’s our future. It’s an anxious time for fishermen to adapt to new systems, but Hugh was full of praise for the areas that have already made protective changes, saying that local fishermen have felt the positive effects too.
I’ve read some criticism for Hugh’s march and his campaign, imploring the public not to jump on the bandwagon without seeing the facts. Well, I’ve read the facts and today’s march wasn’t a frenzy, hyped by mob-mentality; it was considered with the intention of preserving our precious lifeline for generations to come.
Amid the grim statistics we read about species being on the brink of collapse; the reports on how we’re ravaging this natural resource, today was hopeful – we can reverse the trend and ensure the health of our seas for generations to come.
So what can you do? Let’s use the momentum of the rally for real action – there is a consultation open until the end of March, so have your say now.