The oceans seriously threatened
Palawan Island in the Philippines is considered an environmental haven of cleanliness and beauty. But what was discovered recently in the Puerto Princesa fish market – a dorado fish, one of the many they say with a belly full of plastic waste such as bottle caps, candy wrappers and a yellow plastic spoon – shocked customers at the fish market. Other fish sellers said they frequently find similar plastic waste in fish.
In addition to pollution, small-scale fishermen in coastal communities have suffered heavy losses in recent years due to the proliferation of commercial fishing fleets and factory ships from other countries. Not only is China seizing the fishing grounds of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, huge, corporate-run fishing fleets dominate the ocean. They destroy the oceans with irresponsible “bottom trawling” and many species of fish are needlessly killed. Ships drag huge nets along the ocean floor, destroying everything in their path, destroying corals, ecosystems and fish habitats. The commercial fishing industry kills between 0.97 trillion and 1.97 trillion wild fish worldwide each year. This is called “accidental catch” and “accidental catch”.
For example, every hour 30,000 sharks are killed. That’s 50 to 70 million sharks each year – carried aboard, fins cut off and thrown back to die, all to delight diners with shark fin soup. It is a barbaric and unsustainable attack on nature. The shark is a magnificent creature, evolved after millions of years to become the perfect ocean hunter and indispensable in maintaining balance in ocean fauna. This mass slaughter has caused a 70% decline in shark populations around the world over the past 50 years, making it an endangered species.
After watching researcher Ali Tabrizi’s well-done and compelling documentary on the state of our oceans titled “Seaspiracy” released on Netflix and clips on YouTube, we can see how threatened the oceans are. This has led many to question the methods of the commercial fishing industry that lead to overfishing of the oceans.
What is revealed is so shocking. That’s enough to make people stop eating fish and turn to organic, plant-based foods, this writer among them. We must stop eating so much meat and fish to save the planet and the oceans. The oceans are vital for life on Earth because they represent 71% of the planet’s surface. They are the greatest absorbers of carbon dioxide.
Phytoplankton are microorganisms, the microscopic plants that are the staple food of the ocean’s food chain, and they are rapidly declining. Forty percent has been lost since the 1950s, according to studies. This is caused by the warming of the oceans that results from climate change and global warming. These microorganisms are responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen for us and animals to breathe. They are more efficient than any tree on the planet and are now threatened by human activity. We humans refuse to save ourselves and stop burning coal, oil and anything that burns. We are the most dangerous arsonists in the world.
The human species, of which many are ignorant, is destroying the planet that sustains us, gives us the air we breathe and the food we eat. Tropical forests are being destroyed and global warming triggered by human activity is killing vital phytoplankton that could save us by absorbing carbon dioxide.
In the documentary, they cite an International Monetary Fund report that says, “We calculate that this (phytoplankton) is equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide captured by 1.70 trillion trees – the value of four Amazon forests.”
Another huge negative impact on the planet and the oceans is the fishing industry – nets thrown and lost. Probably millions of tons of nets float in the oceans, entangling dolphins, whales and thousands of other sea creatures, including turtles. They wash up on beaches everywhere. According to Greenpeace, “more than 640,000 tonnes of nets, lines, pots and pots used in commercial fishing are thrown and dumped into the sea each year, the same weight as 55,000 double-decker buses.”
“We hear a lot about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) … 46% of them are discarded fishing nets, which are far more dangerous to marine life than our plastic straws,” says environmentalist George Monbiot, contributor to the documentary. Plastic straws only make up 0.003 percent of waste in the ocean, but we need to do more than ban plastic straws. Each fishing vessel should be held responsible for its missing fishing gear.
Another danger to the oceans and all fish is longline fishing. It uses long fishing lines that carry hundreds of hooks with bait and they catch everything indiscriminately. Turtles, dolphins, whales and even sea birds are captured. The fish caught are mostly bycatch, mentioned above, and are discarded dead. Hooks and lines are often lost and left floating underwater for years and continue to kill and maim all sea creatures.
The most ardent defenders of the so-called “sustainable” fishing industry are certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which promote sustainable fishing. Some claim that the canned tuna we see on supermarket shelves is “dolphin-safe”. The documentary “Seaspiricy” showed that in most cases canned tuna is not dolphin safe. Many NGOs derive their funds from the commercial fishing industry and cannot criticize the industry or be impartial.
I used to think fish farming was the best answer to ocean rape. But this also poses many problems. Fish packaged in underwater cages develop disease and antibiotics are used which can affect the consumer. Sea lice are a big problem on fish farms and dangerous chemicals (many are banned) are needed to control them. Thus, farmed fish are also of poor quality because of the feed or pellets they are fed.
Again, it is greed that causes overfishing, pollution, plastic and chemicals dumped in our oceans that are destroying our planet. We need greater awareness, effective and widespread sea law enforcement and moral conscience to end the abuses of destructive fishing.