Rebecca Hubbard – I grew up with parents who surfed and farmed on Australia’s south east coast. I spent my childhood surrounded by clean, beautiful beaches, eucalypt forests and farmland, not realising how blessed I was by having a spectacular playground full of nature. This unique and inspiring place was my launchpad into environmental science and campaigning to protect our environment.
Rebecca has campaigned on environmental issues from the local to international level, with the pillars of creativity, community mobilisation and alliances central to her work. After securing a ban on super trawlers in Australia, she started the European campaign Our Fish, to end overfishing and restore the oceans.
Through my work, I began to learn more about the place where I loved to surf; the ocean – the thing that gives us every second breath, regulates the climate, is the largest carbon sink on Earth and has absorbed 90% of the excess heat we’ve generated. Bit by bit, after falling in love with the ocean, I became heartbroken.
For hundreds of years, we believed the ocean was too big for humans to harm, yet by the 19th century our impact was already becoming apparent. Fish populations became depleted and fishing boats had to go further away to catch fish – and for longer. After World War II, improved technical and mechanical capacity was used to wage war on the ocean, overfishing it even more. The marine ecosystems and wildlife that they co-existed with, were decimated with ruthless effectiveness.
Now I find myself living in Madrid, not far from the world’s most degraded sea – the Mediterranean – and working to end overfishing in the waters around Europe. I look at collapsing fish populations in the Baltic Sea, observe the bottom trawlers that have scraped thousands of kilometres of seafloor in the North Sea, and note the thousands of dolphins that are being killed in the Bay of Biscay by fishing each year. I wonder how did I – how did we – get here? And how can we fix this?
As programme director of the Our Fish campaign, people sometimes think I’m only a fish geek, but this story is about more than fish, or eating fish – it’s about the ocean. The beautiful body of water that covers 70% of the planet and is integral to our life support system. The ocean makes life livable, and worth living. Fish are the engines of our ocean, a keystone of the biodiversity that enriches our planet, and overfishing is putting that biodiversity under enormous pressure.