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Ocean Avengers – the Power of Collaboration and Activism

Ocean Avengers in Politico

Amongst the different hats I wear – I do communications for the Our Fish campaign, a job that in itself demands jack-of-all-trades skills: strategic communications, website building, press officer, photographer, producer, art director. Our Fish is tasked with getting EU member state governments and EU officials to move towards a future where overfishing of our ocean no longer continues. We employ some pretty provocative tactics to get attention – and this is about one of them. What does this have to do with photography? Well, this story involves getting one of my photographs ending up on the front page of the weekly issue of Politico Europe.

In December 2018, the Our Fish campaign brought Poseidon, god of the Sea to Brussels to confront EU fisheries ministers during the annual EU AGRIFISH Council meeting to berate them over their failure to end overfishing. Check out the video here.

Poseidon meets EU fisheries officials in Brussels
God of the sea, Poseidon, comes to berate EU fisheries official, at the opening of the December Council Agrifish meeting. Copyright: Dave Walsh

Come December 2019 – and they still they weren’t getting it. So we upped the ante, and this time Poseidon brought his friends, representing the Climate, Science, Law and EU Citizens. The idea started off as artwork – we had a real Poseidon, so Our Fish boss Bec and I with help from our collaborator Camille Duran drafted up what the “Ocean Avengers” might look like, to use as comic characters for putting in a wraparound for an edition of Politico – and for a centerfold that people would put on their walls. I hounded by friends in the comics and illustration world till I found the artist I wanted – Nye Write. Visit Nye Wright’s Instagram feed here and his website here.

Nye took our crazy ideas and made them real:

We needed a front page image in the theme of “breaking news, superheroes come to town” – Nye took a photogaph of mine over the Berlaymont – the EU Commission Building in Brussels – and added the superheros. I wrote the satirical text. We worked with a designer, Ingo Seifert, to create social media cards and to do the layout for the Politico advert.

Ocean Avengers on Berlaymont - Our Fish/Nye Wright/Dave Walsh

Original photo:

EU Commission, Berlaymont , Brussels, Belgium
European Commission Building, Berlaymont, Schuman, Brussels, Belgium

Then it got crazier. With time running out, we hauled in some more help in the shape of Iris Maertens to help pull together more people to play the superheros. One of our own campaigners, Berit, played Dr Science, and another oceans campaigner, Irene, played Lady Justice. Iris found someone to play Climate X and Citizen Fish. But someone had to record our antics – we found Touissant and Félix from La Belle Equipe Productions to shoot this slick video:

So, did it all work? It certainly got attention – Euronews came along our one of the Ocean Avengers appearances, putting us out in multiple languages across Europe.

Between this news coverage and the Politico cover, enough noise was made for EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius came to meet the avengers, and receive a petition to end overfishing from half a million people from all over Europe. Add your voice here. I’ve probably forgotten to mention an awful lot of people who helped pull off this crazy stunt. But Politico still maintain its their best cover ever!

EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius receives end overfishing message
European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius receives more than half a million signatures from EU citizens who are calling for an end to overfishing by EU member states. Photo: Dave Walsh

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