Three powerful artworks highlighting the struggle to save Britain’s oceans

Greenpeace collaboration with leading artists explores loss, hardship and hope for a better future.


Greenpeace takes action to protect the ocean; safeguarding marine life and the communities that rely on it.

Most of the UK’s ocean sanctuaries (so-called Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs) are not actually protected, and destructive industrial fishing still happens within them. Now we’re calling for the government to properly protect our MPAs and show global leadership on ocean protection.

Throughout our campaign, we have been working with artists in the southwest who are calling for ocean protection. These artists are engaging with the issue from many different perspectives, highlighting the importance of habitats for replenishing fish populations, of safeguarding the livelihoods of sustainable fishers, and of educating children about sustainability and regeneration.

Ammonite (various artists)

Two people in hardhats move a large stone boulder, with a shell shape carved into the side, using ropes and pulleys on the side of a ship.

In summer 2022, Greenpeace installed an underwater ‘boulder barrier’ in the South West Deeps (East) MPA to prevent destructive fishing. In doing so, we called for a ban on industrial fishing in our marine ‘protected’ areas.

We chose limestone as our material as it’s formed from the sedimentation of sea organisms, including plankton and shell building organisms such as oysters, starfish, urchins and corals. When these organisms die, they sink to the seabed and over time the sediment forms limestone – which is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. This stone is full of fossilised biodiversity and you can see ancient sea and plant life in its layers.

“When these organisms die, they sink to the seabed and over time the sediment forms limestone – which is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. This stone is full of fossilised biodiversity and you can see ancient sea and plant life in its layers.”
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We wanted to collaborate with artists who work with limestone in a sustainable way, so we approached the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust (PSQT).

The Trust saved Tout Quarry from further mineral extraction in 1983. It has been connecting art to geology, ecology and stone working histories; regenerating the land and keeping alive the traditions of stone carving for over 40 years through open-to-all courses, where people learn to carve stone in the context of the quarry from which it is sourced.

The quarry, overlooking Chesil Beach and the dramatic Jurassic Coast, is now a nature reserve. Locals and visitors come to walk and learn about wildlife and stone heritage while surrounded by more than 60 works of art by sculptors including: Dhruva Mistry, Philip King and Shelagh Wakeley, and Antony Gormley.

A boulder with carved shell shape plummets into the sea off the side of a ship.

The ammonite boulder is placed in the sea. Greenpeace UK placed 18 limestone boulders on the seabed in the South West Deeps Marine Protected Area to block destructive industrial fishing. Campaigners and crew on board Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise sail to the western English Channel to make a portion of the South West Deeps off-limits to bottom-trawling. © Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

We worked with the artists from PSQT to make a sculpture that would be evocative of the ocean’s role in sustaining life for millions of years and of our responsibility to preserve it for future generations.

The artists proposed sculpting a giant ammonite, a sea creature whose distinctive shell can be seen fossilised throughout the limestone they work with. The artists suggested this once ubiquitous but now extinct creature as a warning of the impacts that humans are having on our ocean habitats and species.

This sculpture was donated to the campaign by the artists and taken aboard Greenpeace’s ship, Arctic Sunrise, where it was returned to the ocean as part of our protective underwater boulder barrier – an invocation of ancient sea life returned to the ocean to protect the ocean for future generations.

Waiting for Fish (Holly Bendall)

Holly and Hugh pose with a bronze-coloured sculpture of a man sitting with his legs hanging over the edge of a concrete surface. The sculpture hunches slightly forwards and squints into the distance.

Artist Holly Bendall and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the unveiling of a life size sculpture of a man and seagull looking out to sea in Porthleven Harbour. The bronze sculpture, ‘Waiting for Fish’, by Cornish artist Holly Bendall raises awareness about the importance of small-scale sustainable fishing and the impact of overfishing on our coastal communities and marine life. © Neal Megaw / Greenpeace

In Portland, we met artist Holly Bendall who spent 18 months working on her sculpture “Waiting for Fish”, which raises awareness about the impacts of overfishing on our communities and marine life. She spent time speaking with small boat fishermen in Cadgwith, going out to sea with them and learning about their traditions. She saw how in tune they are with the ocean and its future, and how by working with nature (limiting their take, and putting back lobsters that are too small or with eggs), marine life is given a chance to replenish, ensuring catch for future generations.

Her sculpture was inspired by a sketch she made of a man and seagull who she spotted sitting on a bench together looking out to sea in Cadgwith. The sketch captured the serenity and excitement of man and seagull looking out at the ocean waiting for the fishermen to return. “Waiting for Fish” highlights the importance of keeping the local tradition of small boat fishing alive and poses the question of where our fish comes from. Holly spent more that 190 hours creating a version of the colloquially known “Dave and bird” in plaster, and then in bronze, using the traditional processes at The Lost Foundry.

““Waiting for Fish” highlights the importance of keeping the local tradition of small boat fishing alive and poses the question of where our fish comes from.”
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The sculpture was unveiled in its permanent home in Porthleven in Cornwall by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spoke about how people worldwide depend on fishing for their livelihoods and wellbeing, but the world’s oceans are being overfished to the point that those communities are struggling and marine life is dying out.

He said: “Towns like Porthleven used to be thriving fishing towns. Now, industrial trawlers are making it increasingly difficult for small-boat fishermen to make ends meet, as they scoop up fish indiscriminately, often destroying the precious habitats of the seafloor as they do so. Sustainable fishing practices, and a network of properly protected marine reserves, are the way forward to help coastal communities and restore our precious marine life, and the livelihood of fishermen that depend on it.”

Jeremy smiles while he sits next to a bronze sculpture of a sitting man looking out into the distance.

Jeremy Richards, local inshore fisherman from Porthleven at the unveiling of a life size sculpture of a man and seagull looking out to sea in Porthleven Harbour. © Neal Megaw / Greenpeace

Local fisherman Jeremy Richards also spoke about the traditions of sustainable inshore fishing, where, for every lobster you catch, many more will not enter the lobster pot. This approach defines good fisheries not by what is caught but what is left behind.

Memory Stones: Ocean Stone (various artists)

Continuing our collaboration with PSQT to create a lasting legacy on land, on the Isle of Portland and for the boulders at sea, Hannah Sofaer worked with a team of artists to design and carve an inscription for the Ocean Stone – one of 12 Memory Stones as a new entrance to Tout Quarry Sculpture Park & Nature Reserve. The Memory Stones is an existing artwork by Hannah Sofaer, with each stone having its own significance, linking the historical culture, crafts and land use in Portland to the future.

Sun breaks through clouds as Hannah Sofaer stands in the centre of a sculpture made of monolithic stones arranged in a half-circle on a hilltop.

Artist Hannah Sofaer with the memory stones. © Philip Hartley / Greenpeace

When inscribing the surface of the Ocean Stone, the artists emulated the movement of the sea by respecting natural waves on the surface of the Ocean stone. They prepared the surface of the stone by carving ribbons for the lettering that flow upwards, invoking the potential for a positive future. They then carved an inscription on the stone about our collaboration and our campaigns efforts to protect the ocean.

We included a QR Code to link the viewer to more information about our collaboration, the action creating the boulder barrier in the South West Deeps and our campaign to ensure the UK’s Marine Protected Areas are properly protected from industrial fishing and other exploitation.

The inscribed Ocean Stone was unveiled by Greenpeace UK’s Executive Director Will McCallum, alongside artists who worked on it. The unveiling was followed by a series of educational activities at PSQT’s Drill Hall, engaging residents and local school groups around ocean protection, stone carving, and the history of the quarry and sculpture park.

A man smiles and holds tools while standing next to a large stone with carved text on it
Close-up of carved text on a large stone. The fragments of text visible say: "Protecting the", "This ocean stone" and "Greenpeace defend"

An artist working on the Ocean Stone. The Ocean Stone is the first of 12 Memory Stones to be unveiled by the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust, in collaboration with Greenpeace. © Philip Hartley / Greenpeace

Artists across the UK are engaging with ocean protection and echoing calls by campaigners, fishing communities, and local people to protect the ocean. Our continued work in UK MPAs links to the global goal of protecting 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030.  For the UK to truly be global leaders in ocean protection we need more than protection on paper. We need to ban industrial fishing in UK MPAs, and protect the ocean now and for future generations.

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