Article Index

Celebrating World Oceans Day at the Environment Fair in Brussels, Belgium

Once a year, the Environment Fair in Brussels is a platform for thousands of citizens to connect to all aspects of living more sustainably together.

This year's fair took place on 7 June in the 50aire Park, just one day before World Oceans Day. 25,000 visitors filed through the stands and activities during the day.

It was an excellent opportunity to inform the visitors about key threats to the integrity of the ocean and what they could do about it themselves and  together with Mundus maris and many others. In splendid weather the Mundus maris stand was a magnet for visitors from the beginning of the programme at 11h to the end at 19h.

Many visitors at the stand had a general sense that overfishing was a problem but were surprised to learn about its extent. They were simply unaware that a large number of marine species in Europe and around the world is threatened by extinction. Despite Brussels being the battle ground for the reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for more than three years, few visitors had heard that the new policy adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2013/14 made overfishing illegal. Even fewer realised how difficult the implementation of the new provisions were.

Closer to home, the fish rulers on display and for distribution visualised the minimum length of maturity of common fish species in the North Sea, the Baltic and in other seas. They were a welcome anchor to connect policy to consumption practice. None of the many visitors of the stand could comprehend why it should still be legal to catch and land cod at 35 cm, when the length at maturity is twice that.

We screened the film "Finding Nemo" and it was watched by a lot of people, both young and old. They stopped to enjoy the story at least in part and were surprised to learn that one in six characters of the film was a threatened species.

Quite a few people took the quiz that asked four questions about the degree of threat to species groups represented in "Finding Nemo".

A fifth question asked the highest price paid for Atlantic Bluefin Tuna on the Tokyo fish market to reflect together about how a species so much in demand for fashionable sushi and sashimi could be protected from terminal decline.

Only one visitor leaving the filled in quiz for the prize drawing got all the answers right! Congratulations to the winner of the Mundus maris cup featuring our mascots Samba and Kumba, the tireless activists to protect baby fish. The right answers were:

  • 57% of hammerhead sharks (Anchor in "Finding Nemo) are threatened
  • 80% of Mako sharks (Bruce)
  • 50% of eagle rays (Mr. Raie)
  • 100% of turtles (Crush, Squirt)
  • 1,758,000 $ paid for one specimen of Bluefin Tuna

We realised how much more awareness raising is needed to help citizens navigate the murky waters of wide-spread fraud of species substitution in the (super)market and of fish that comes from illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries.

The demand for information was high. But we understand that a lot more basics are needed to empower people to understand the issues and adjust their own action accordingly.

The jars with normal water and a sea shell and acidified water attacking the shell of a gastropod was acknowledged by visitors as an effective tool to illustrate the effects of climate change and ocean acidification for marine life.

The peak event of the day was the announcement of the ceremony at the Mundus maris stand of the winners of the Mundus maris Awards for World Oceans Day. The announcement was made through the central loudspeaker system of the fair.

At 15h30 sharp the Kindergarten in Spa (CRIE de Spa), represented through the pedagogical coordinator Vinciane Mathieu and the family of one of the participating kids, were honoured as winners of a Turtle Prize in the category 'Telling a story of the dream ocean' in the age group of up to 12 year-olds.

They developed their lovely story during a stage from 7 to 10 April 2015. It's all about the ocean visiting the Ardennes and the adventures of the young explorers looking for traces of these visits in pre-history. Congratulations to the happy winners of this and all other Mundus maris Awards 2015.

There were a number of other attractions during the day, including Mundus maris Samba and Kumba colouring pages, flyers and book marks in different languages and lots of engaged conversations. Let's make our shared love for the ocean and the wonderful human encounters a feature of our daily lives, not only on World Oceans Day, but every day!