"We have between 30 and 45 years before all large fish in our oceans disappear." Wietse van der Werf, founder of The Black Fish
The Black Fish is an independent marine conservation organisation founded in 2010 by Wietse van der Werf. The group works to bring together a network of volunteer pilots, divers and everyday activists to end illegal and destructive fishing practices, and safeguard species in the European seas.
Starting from humble beginnings at his home in The Netherlands with a few hundred euros from his mum, Wietse’s vision was clear: “to build a social movement for the oceans.” An active campaigner, over the years Wietse has dedicated many hours to working with organisations like Climate Camp, before focusing his energy on the ocean. “Industrial illegal overfishing is the most heavily financed environmental destruction on this earth. People are getting away with fishing crime and making incredible amounts of money in the process… Apart from promoting the sustainable seafood aspect very few people work on illegal overfishing. I would argue, after climate change, this is the largest issue we face globally.”
In the Losing Nemo film created by The Black Fish, we’re presented with arresting facts about the subversive nature of the fishing industry; and the numbers speak for themselves: “Fish is running out. We have between 30 and 45 years before all large fish in the world’s oceans disappear.” Since 1950, 90% of large fish have vanished from the oceans, including the now endangered bluefin tuna. “For big tuna you can get up to 1.3 million US dollars for a single fish. The value of bluefin tuna rises faster than the price of gold.” Often the tuna are taken at a juvenile size, which means they haven’t developed properly, and are illegally kept in "off shore sea pens" to be fattened up to sell on to investors keen to stockpile the fish.
Illegal tuna fishing happens in European seas, and The Black Fish uses new technology and undercover investigations to expose other unlawful tactics active in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas: “40% of fish caught in the EU is caught illegally through dynamite fishing, illegal drift netting or fishing in waters that are out of season.” Enforcing and exposing the EU fishing laws is a huge task and although there is legislation there is no way of monitoring how the laws are enforced, as Wietse explains, “The level of criminality and noncompliance, compared to any other industry, is just unheard of. We’re dealing with an industry that is rife with organised crime and corruption; and it’s right here in Europe.” To combat this The Black Fish is working on growing a team of citizen inspectors stationed at ports around Europe, providing hands on training for community members to put an end to illegal fishing.
For more information and details on how you can get involved go to TheBlackFish.org
The Black Fish is one of many campaign groups that receive funding from Charity Pot. Find out more about the groups we fund here.