How we made fish the ‘must-have’ prop of the election campaign

Posted by Emily Buchanan — 30 April 2015 at 12:26pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
Jules, the Skipper of Rising Tide

There’s something fishy going on. In recent weeks, Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg and Ruth Davidson have all been photographed cradling a variety of slimy (yet infinitely charismatic) fish and the media have been scrumming to cover fishing issues. But why? Could it be something to do with the marginal coastal vote and its ability to make or break a political career this election?

Well yes, but we’ve known that for a while, and that’s why we seized the opportunity and embarked on an epic 25-stop boat tour of England and Wales on a mission to put local fishermen first. Along the way, we asked local candidates to become Coastal Champions and support our Coastal Champions Action Plan.

We've enjoyed enormous success, with over 120 politicians pledging to reallocate quota to sustainable fishermen, followed by manifesto commitments from ALL of the major political parties! But who has committed what exactly?

2015 Election Manifesto Commitments on Fishing Policy:


“We will…rebalance the UK’s inland water quotas to smaller specific locally-based fishing communities.”(p.23)


“Ensure that fishing quota allocation contributes to the restoration and maintenance of a thriving industry, including the revival of coastal communities and the protection of the marine environment.” (p.11)

Liberal Democrats

“Fully implement recent reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy, working with industry and others to develop a national plan for sustainable UK fisheries, with fair treatment for the inshore small boat fleet." (p.84)


“Work to ensure sustainable fishing policies, leading to sustainable fishing communities, at both national and European levels as appropriate. In particular, fishing quota allocations should reward local sustainable fisheries.” (p.15)


“Smaller fishing boats make up the majority of the UK fleet but only receive only 4 per cent of the English quota, while the five largest foreign-controlled vessels take 32 per cent. It is grossly unfair and damages fish stock sustainability. Small-scale inshore fishing is the backbone of the UK fishing industry and we will end this injustice...Foreign trawlers will have to apply for and purchase fishing permits to fish British waters when fish stocks have returned to sustainable levels.” (p.48)

This is a major win for oceans, sustainable fishermen and coastal communities – who have long been deprived of jobs and income as a result of the broken quota system. But this is not the end of the story. Now we need the next government to stick to their promises and history dictates that we can't guarantee that. That’s why we’ve just been granted permission for a full judicial review into whether the UK fishing quota allocation system is unlawful. This way, we can prove in a court of law that sustainable fishermen must come first.

Our thanks go out to the hundreds of people who came along to our boat tour events and supported our coastal odyssey. If you signed the bunting, wore a badge, challenged politicians or suppressed a giggle at the work of art we painted on your children’s faces – thank you. We couldn’t have achieved such significant gains without the time, energy and extraordinary warmth of the local people we met by the sea.

There’s lots to celebrate so we hope to see you at the grand finale of the boat tour in Hayle, where Rising Tide will make its triumphant, bunting-bedecked return to Cornwall, to Fisheries Minister George Eustice’s constituency.

In the mean time, if you want to know which of your local candidates made the Coastal Champions pledge, take a look at the infographic below or see where they feature on this comprehensive list.

About Emily Buchanan

Creative producer at Greenpeace UK.

Follow Greenpeace UK