Open letter: Don’t prosecute Greenpeace for protecting the ocean

An open letter to George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs


Dear Secretary of State,

We have all signed our names on to granite boulders which Greenpeace used to build underwater boulder barriers at sea, closing parts of the Offshore Brighton and Dogger Bank Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to destructive bottom trawling.

We were proud to support Greenpeace in this safe, non-violent direct action at sea, and their call for at least 30% ocean protection by 2030. We are shocked that the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has now decided to waste public resources prosecuting Greenpeace for protecting our oceans. The pre-trial hearing takes place at the end of this month.

We are all living through a climate and nature emergency, but instead of protecting our planet the MMO prefers to attack environmental defenders for highlighting their failure to protect our oceans and doing their job for them. We are writing to urge you, as Secretary of State, to instruct the MMO to change course and cease prosecution. We urge you to show leadership in protecting our oceans.

Bottom trawling involves ripping up the seabed with fishing gear. It damages habitats, harms biodiversity and disturbs vast “blue” carbon stores which would otherwise remain safely in the deep ocean.

The Dogger Bank and Offshore Brighton MPAs, where Greenpeace built the boulder barriers, exist to protect the seabed. Despite this, bottom trawlers and other industrial fishing vessels spend hundreds of hours ploughing both every year.

This environmental destruction is facilitated by the MMO. There are no permanent restrictions on industrial fishing activity in either, a situation mirrored across the UK’s offshore network of Marine Protected Areas.

In response to Greenpeace’s campaigning, bottom trawling restrictions are now being considered for some protected areas, including Dogger Bank. This is welcome, but the snail’s pace at which the government is moving, and the lack of ambition, is disappointing.

Instead of taking a piecemeal approach to considering whether industrial activities within Marine Protected Areas impact specific protected features, the government and MMO need to prioritise fully protecting at least 30% of our oceans by 2030, in line with scientific advice. Only then can we safeguard biodiversity, prevent vast blue carbon stores from being disturbed, and guarantee a future for our coastal communities.

Is prosecuting environmental defenders for taking action to protect nature the message our government wishes to send to nations around the world? This is a pivotal time for leadership in a global struggle to save our planet. It is not a time to prosecute environmental campaigners such as Greenpeace.

We all stand with Greenpeace. We hope our government will see sense and the MMO will desist from prosecution and both will take urgent action to protect our oceans from further harm.


Thandiwe Newton

Stephen Fry

Ranulph Fiennes

Bonnie Wright

Mya Rose Craig

Dale Vince, Founder – Ecotricity

Robert Lindsay

Daniel Lismore

Si King

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