AS A hook to reel in support for a campaign to end overfishing, celebrities posing naked with a strategically placed fish is a real catch.

In the latest set of images from the Fishlove campaign, which is produced by the Brighton-based Japanese restaurant MOSHIMO, seven celebrities appear naked with fish from Europe’s seas. They include actresses Imelda Staunton, who poses with a blonde ray, Rula Lenska hugging a brill, Jane Horrocks holding a ling, and Jessie Buckley clutching a sturgeon.

Actress and director Florence Keith-Roach has been photographed with a European eel, which has become virtually extinct through overfishing and hydropower plants, former darts ace Bobby George gets up close and personal with a wolf fish and Murder on the Orient Express actor Tom Bateman poses with a red mullet.

The pictures, all taken by award-winning London-based photographer Jillian Edelstein, were released at the weekend by Fishlove to highlight the ongoing disaster of overfishing and the urgent need for the EU to follow scientific advice on quotas ahead of this week’s debates on fishing quotas for 2018 by Europe’s fisheries ministers in Brussels.

All of the fish shown in the photographs are commercially fished, with some species shown regarded by scientists as being over-fished and threatened. Fishlove says “the use of these fish in these photographs is justified so as to highlight what species could be lost if overfishing continues”.

Nicholas Rohl, a scriptwriter and co-owner of MOSHIMO, set up Fishlove in 2009 with the Sussex-based actress Greta Scacchi to raise awareness of unsustainable fishing practices. It’s described as “a visual petition of amazing people, including Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Michael Gambon, Sir Richard Branson, Melanie Laurent, Fiona Shaw, Terry Gilliam, Kenzo, Dame Judi Dench, Emilia Fox, Mark Rylance, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham-Carter and others to save our seas”.

From the first set of images by the photographer Rankin in 2009, it was the one of the White Mischief star that made it onto front covers across the world and she was invited to 10 Downing Street to talk to the government about making fishing more sustainable.

“That image was so striking,”  says Nicholas. “It was Greta who really made Fishlove what it is. She understood the whole celebrity game and got in touch with all the people. It took a lot of work to do that.

“Fishlove continues to make the issue of overfishing current and to change attitudes. When the campaign began, everybody wanted to talk about fish because of these images. It provokes people – continually – to take a position.

“I don’t care if people get shocked by an image of a fish against a naked body – that’s the point of Fishlove. I also say it has an artistic value, and art is there to make you question things and not just to give a black and white answer. It’s about getting people to analyse their reactions, to question their relationship with fish.”

Nicholas and his business partner Karl Jones were pioneers of sushi in this country: the first people to bring sushi to the UK in 1994 and their Brighton restaurant MOSHIMO was the country’s first British-owned Japanese restaurant. The restaurateur has described how he first became aware of the world’s fishing crisis with blue fin tuna, with bountiful supplies one day, then suddenly it was hard to get hold of. It was quickly removed from the restaurant’s menu and then in 2009 they were asked to become involved in the launch of Rupert Murray’s documentary The End of the Line, the first about the catastrophe happening in the seas.

“At the time, people never really engaged with the issue at all and there was a real crisis going on. Most people now know but in 2009 people were not aware,” he says. “It was a continuing struggle to get people to take notice, though, so we came up with the idea of a naked woman holding a fish against her, almost as if it were a child.

“Greta, a friend of mine, was very keen on helping and jumped at the idea of doing this image. And simply doing photography without words was very exciting and very provocative. It became a global phenomenon.”

Fishlove releases images in support of campaigns by other organisations. After the first set of photographs by the fashion and portrait photographer Rankin, which helped promote The End of the Line, came a second Rankin collection, featuring Jerry Hall and her daughter Lizzy Jagger, then Fishlove Paris, with a portrait by Alan Gelati of Melanie Laurent for the OCEAN2012 campaign to reform European Common Fisheries policy.

Fishlove Rome also supported OCEAN2012 to end European subsidies for fishing fleet, and an unprecedented Fishlove exhibition at the European Commission in Brussels in 2013 at the invitation of Maria Damanaki, then EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, acknowledged its pivotal role in raising awareness of the fishing crisis. Among the images was a controversial shot by Denis Rouvre of actor Jean Marc Barr with a 75kg Mako shark.

In 2015, a photograph by John Swannell of the actress Helena Bonham Carter with a giant tuna made the front page of the London Evening Standard, propelling Blue Marine Foundation’s Great British Oceans Campaign to increase protection of the globe’s oceans into the headlines. It’s credited with having helped persuade the UK government to commit to establishing some of the largest fully protected marine reserves on earth.

Two years ago, Dame Judi Dench posed with a lobster “because I have a passion or them”  for a Fishlove campaign for World Ocean Day, and last year London seafood restaurant J Sheekey Oyster Bar endorsed Fishlove by commissioning photographs of West End actors holding fish. The images by Jillian Edelstein included Wolf Hall actor and Oscar winner Mark Rylance,  Emma Thompson (photographed with husband Greg Wise), Miriam Margolyes, Dougray Scott, Jodhi May and Alex Jennings.

The current crop of pictures supports Our Fish, a coalition of campaigning groups that works to to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish programme director Rebecca Hubbard says, “European countries have the power to end overfishing – and with just two years left until the 2020 deadline, what’s needed is political will to act on behalf of EU citizens. The benefits of ending overfishing are already known and accepted – sustainable fishing means healthier fish stocks, more jobs and profit for fishers, and a healthier marine environment. It’s high time that European fisheries ministers start representing all EU citizens, not just the interests of a few big industry players, and start following the laws they have already signed up to.”

Nicholas says, “We did Fishlove because we were getting frustrated by our limited influence. The real change is at the political level, although you do what you can in your own way. But I get so sick of restaurants claiming to be sustainable and not having an idea or a clue about what sustainable means.

“MOSHIMO is light years head of other restaurants because we make our menus more specific by saying that we do not serve fish that is listed as “fish to avoid” by the Marine Conservation Society. It’s unique.”

MOSHIMO, which has won a PETA Proggy (progress) Award for its promotion of vegan and vegetarian food, is also at the forefront of plant-based food eating movement, staging its annual The Great Moshimo Vegan Challenge. It has also just launched 50% Vegan Wednesdays.

MOSHIMO is at Bartholomew Square, Brighton. Phone 01273 719195, email info@moshimo.co.uk or visit moshimo.co.uk.

Visit fishlove.co.uk.

To sign a petition that says: EU fisheries ministers need to take urgent action now if they are to achieve ecologically diverse, clean and healthy seas as they promised by 2020. This must include ending overfishing and protecting at least 30% of our seas, go to https://act.wemove.eu/campaigns/save-eu-seas.

Main picture, top: Oscar nominee and Harry Potter star Imelda Staunton with a blonde ray, a species that’s caught and discarded as bycatch. “It breaks my heart to think about what we are doing to our seas through overfishing, especially when you realise how easy the solution is,” she says. “All it needs is for our politicians to have the courage to follow the scientific advice, and our seas will spring back to health and life for the benefit of all.”

Above: actress and director Florence Keith-Roach poses with a European eel. “98.4% of the European eel population is already GONE. Continuing to fish for them is like hunting pandas,” she says. “EU member states must help save this species from extinction by supporting a ban on eel fishing in European seas.” 

Below: Nicholas Rohl/picture: Alan Gelati

Above: the 2009 Fishlove image of White Mischief actress Greta Scacchi. Picture: Fishlove/Rankin 

Below: War and Peace actress Jessie Buckley with a sturgeon. “There is not plenty more fish left in the sea!” she says. “We all need to find our voice to stop the greedy few from exploiting our sea to extinction. This is why I did my Fishlove portrait with a sturgeon.”

Above: Rock Follies actress Rula Lenska says, “I did a Fishlove portrait with a brill because I’m frustrated that we’re not moving fast enough to conserve fish stocks. Ending overfishing is a win for everyone… and it’s so easy to achieve: even the Americans are doing it! Holding a cold fish to my bare chest took a lot of nerves, but was also huge fun and strangely satisfying because I think it will make a difference!”

Below: Former darts ace Bobby George with a wolf fish. “My religion is nature and too many fish are being taken out of the sea,” he says. “I found the wolf fish very slippery and slimy and could hear him say ‘Please release me! Let me go!’”

Below: Absolutely Fabulous star Jane Horrocks poses with a ling, and below, Murder on the Orient Express actor Tom Bateman with a red mullet

Fishlove images of Imelda Staunton, Florence Keith-Roach, Jessie Buckley, Rula Lenska, Bobby George, Jane Horrocks and Tom Bateman: @Fishlove/Jillian Edelstein. Fishlove portraits expose the naked truth – the EU needs to deliver on its promise to end overfishing of all fish stocks. #EndOverfishing @fishlove2020