A University of Exeter researcher is leading Fish Free February – asking people to give up fish for a month to reduce our impact on the ocean.

PhD student, Jessica Haines, who studies manta rays, is campaign manager for the charity.

Fish Free February’s mission is to reduce seafood consumption, encourage a shift to more sustainable fishing methods and connect more people with important marine issues.

“The ocean is severely depleted, with 90% of fish populations fished to their maximum or overfished,” Haines said.

“Humanity is simply taking far too much from the ocean, and it’s not sustainable.

“This isn’t just bad for biodiversity, it’s bad for fishers and people who rely on seafood – as stocks dwindle, fishing becomes harder and more expensive.

“We hope many people will take the Fish Free February pledge.”

The charity encourages people to reduce, research and replace: reduce fish consumption, research where your seafood comes from, and replace it with other sustainable food options.

Haines studies juvenile reef manta rays in the Maldives, where they are well protected – but in the waters off Sri Lanka to the northwest, artisanal fisheries are overfishing manta rays in the northern Indian Ocean. The high proportion of juvenile manta rays being landed in Sri Lanka is extremely concerning.

“That’s why I’m involved with Fish Free February,” she said.

“We want to get people talking about what they eat, where it comes from and what impact that has.

“A lot of people avoid meat for ethical and environmental reasons but still eat fish.

“Seafood doesn’t get the same attention as meat production.

“You can see that in supermarkets too – there are lots of vegetarian meat substitutes, but only a few fish substitutes.

“In fact – just like meat production – industrial-scale extraction for seafood is having a huge impact on our planet.”

Poster for Fish Free February

While Fish Free February is open to anyone, anywhere in the world, Haines stressed that the campaign is not targeted at the millions of people who rely on seafood as a primary source of protein.

Instead, it is focused on people who are in the privileged position to make consumer choices, asking them to think about where their food has come from.

To find out more or take the pledge, visit www.fishfreefebruary.com