Don't be shellfish

University of Hull gives marine life a voice as new study reveals concerns over marine pollution

University of Hull gives marine life a voice as new study reveals concerns over marine pollution

A striking protest that gives marine life a voice and helps initiate positive change to protect the future of our rivers and oceans has been launched by the University of Hull.

The Don’t Be Shellfish initiative has seen a stretch of the Humber Estuary, in the shadow of the landmark Humber Bridge in Hull, East Yorkshire, transformed into an arresting picket line.

The University, which is leading on a series of research projects and teaching programmes to address environmental issues of global importance, has created the protest to raise awareness of the harmful impact of plastic pollution and the rising acidity levels on marine life in oceans, and encourage people to take positive action.

A series of slogan carrying placards have been planted in the water to highlight the challenges facing different types of marine life. The protest has been made to look like it has been organised by marine life who have banded together to protest against the conditions in which they are forced to live and the threat this poses to their livelihoods.

As part of the campaign, a new study by the University of Hull and YouGov * has revealed that Brits are concerned about the effect of marine pollution on both marine and human life.


The research reveals that:

  • more than three-quarters (78%) want to reduce their use of single use plastics;
  • a significant majority of people (71%) want a wider choice of plastic-free products on offer where they shop;
  • a startling 92% admit to being concerned about the negative impact that plastic pollution in the oceans will have on future generations;
  • almost three-quarters (72%) have expressed concern about the impact of increasing levels of acidification caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere being absorbed by the sea on marine life;
  • plastic pollution is viewed as spoiling the world’s beaches by 89% of Brits;
  • a further 81% are concerned about the potential health implications of consuming seafood that contains microplastics.

Delve deeper and study at Hull

Undergraduate degrees

  • BSc (Hons) Marine Biology
  • BSc (Hons) Environmental Science
  • BSc (Hons) Biology
  • BSc (Hons) Zoology
  • BSc (Hons) Geology
  • BA (Hons) Geography
  • BSc (Hons) Geography
Marine pollution research

Hannah Lightley, final-year Marine Biology student at the University of Hull, said: “My studies have really highlighted the challenges many marine species are facing due to increased plastic pollution. Being able to understand the science behind the problem coupled with physically seeing first-hand the effect plastic is having on the marine environment has increased my drive to take action and to try and encourage others to change behaviours. Small changes such as refusing plastic straws, choosing to buy plastic free products, recycling and getting involved with beach cleans, can all have a major positive impact on reducing plastic waste and ultimately improving the marine environment.”

Professor Dan Parsons, Director of the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute, said: “The world is waking up to the negative impact that plastic pollution in particular is having on the marine environment. However, there is still a lack of awareness about what is happening beneath the surface of the water, which is why we felt it was important to give a voice to the marine life unable to speak out about the challenges they face. 

“For example, rising levels of acidity in our oceans is having a huge impact on marine life - comparable to a world without light and sound for us human beings - by disrupting the way that they communicate. Unless we take rapid action, the consequences for the marine ecosystem could be devastating.” 

Professor Parsons, who was recently appointed by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as chair of a scoping group for research into tackling the mounting global issue of plastic pollution in the environment, added: “Likewise, the tiny pieces of plastic that are making their way into our rivers and oceans are not only polluting our marine environment but are also entering our food chain. Marine pollution is a global challenge and now is the time to take this interest and concern and turn it into concerted action. 

“At the University of Hull, we’re rising to the challenge through our  #DelveDeeper campaign which aims to highlight and help solve some of these major issues through our research and teaching in order to make a difference.”

The new findings support research from leading academics at the University of Hull:

  • Ocean acidification disrupts marine life communication 
  • 'Significant and widespread' microplastics found in mussels from UK waters
  • Levels of microplastic particles accumulating in the Antarctic are much worse than expected

Dr Chris Tuckett, Director of Programmes at the Marine Conservation Society says the campaign is both eye-catching and eye-opening. "The University has creatively done something to raise awareness about a vital issue, while at the same time revealing important findings. The research shows that people care about the challenges that marine life faces, and the potential negative ramifications for future human generations, we hope this initiative raises vital awareness and encourages others, including policymakers, to take meaningful action.”

The picket, made entirely from reclaimed materials, will be recycled following the end of the protest.

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,001 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between July 24 and 25 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).