Giant octopus rises from the Thames at Parliament to demand sea-change in ocean protection


An inflatable octopus larger than a double decker bus rose from the Thames this morning outside the Houses of Parliament to demand a sea-change in the UK government’s approach to ocean protection.

Despite this week’s welcome news that the government will back a moratorium on deep sea mining, the government has recently stated an intention to delay until after the next general election the ratification of the Global Ocean Treaty [1] – a key step towards making this landmark agreement legally-binding. At the same time, ministers have also approved a raft of new oil and gas licences in the North Sea, posing a serious threat to marine life as well as the climate.

The 7m x 20m octo-activist was placed on the riverbank at the foot of Big Ben by Greenpeace UK’s co-executive director Will McCallum, a week ahead of the King’s Speech – a pivotal marker of the government’s focus and priorities for the year ahead. They were accompanied by other Greenpeace activists carrying hand banners that read “Protect the Oceans”, travelling in two small boats along the Thames. 

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The NGO argues that unless the government includes legislation to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty into law during next week’s King’s Speech, and rapidly reverses its stance on fossil fuel expansion, it risks stamping out its legacy of championing ocean protection and commitment to protect at least 30% of the global oceans by 2030. 

Fiona Nicholls, Greenpeace UK Oceans Campaigner, said:
“We’ve brought our giant deep sea octo-activist to Westminster to demand a sea change in the government’s approach to ocean protection because right now, all we’re seeing is inconsistency. The UK has championed the Global Ocean Treaty and just announced its backing for a moratorium on deep sea mining but it’s also poised to severely delay signing the Treaty into UK law and has unleashed a frenzy on oil and gas in the North Sea.

“True leadership on ocean protection demands a fully joined up approach. That means concrete plans to ratify the Global Ocean Treaty in the King’s Speech, working with other governments to agree a full ban on deep sea mining, and an end to new oil and gas now.”

Will McCallum, co-Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said:
“I’m climbing the steps of Parliament with our enormous octo-activist today to make sure the government hears our message.

“Backing a moratorium on deep sea mining is a positive move but delaying ratification of the Global Ocean Treaty and continuing its aggressive strategy to max out new oil and gas blows a huge hole in the government’s claim to be ocean protection leaders. Every delay in safeguarding our oceans through the Global Oceans Treaty and each new oil and gas licence issued not only imperils the climate but further endangers the delicate balance of marine life, pushing ecosystems closer to the brink of irreversible harm. Joined up thinking is crucial if the government is serious about ocean protection and the time to show voters that’s the case is right now.”

The Global Ocean Treaty will only enter into force 120 days after 60 countries have passed it into law. Any delay would directly impact the creation of ocean sanctuaries crucial to protecting marine life. Independent legal advice sought by Greenpeace with Maya Lester KC at Brick Court Chambers confirms that the Global Ocean Treaty could be ratified into UK law swiftly within the next Parliamentary session, in line with government policy.[2]

The 27 new oil and gas licences approved this week by the government will not only be a disaster for the climate, they will also have an immediate detrimental impact on marine life. Evidence uncovered last month by Greenpeace Unearthed revealed that chronic oil spills impact ocean habitats daily, with more than half the oil spilled by UK offshore oil and gas operations in the past decade ending up in marine protected areas. Burning oil and gas leads to more heat and carbon being absorbed by the oceans, causing water temperatures to rise as well as acidification. This disrupts habitats, alters food chains, and intensifies extreme weather events. [3] Using the King’s Speech to announce a new annual system for oil and gas licensing, as reports suggest may be the Prime Minister’s plan, would not only be a betrayal on climate – it would significantly threaten ocean protection and damage the government’s standing as ocean leaders. 


Contact Greenpeace UK Press Office –

Notes to Editors: 

[1] In a written statement on the Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction Agreement (16th October), the Foreign Minister stated that legislation required to ratify the treaty “is anticipated in the first session of a new parliament after a general election”.

[2] Copy of legal advice available on request.

[3] Scientific evidence gathered by Oceana: End new offshore oil & gas 

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