A World without Fish
Fishing and fish farming are destroying the ocean’s ecology. In fact, according to the United Nations Environmental Program, the ocean’s ecological crisis is “greater than anything witnessed on land.” The scope of this problem can partly gauged by the fact that there are now over four million commercial fishing vessels combing the world’s oceans, depleting fish at a rate that’s considered three times more than is sustainable.
Eleven of the world’s fifteen most important fishing grounds are in decline, and 60 percent of the major fish species are over-exploited. Scientists are warning that we are rapidly approaching the “end of the line.” If this continues, only 35 years from now there will be no edible species of fish left in the ocean! This is already starting to happen in some places. For instance in two of the formerly most productive fisheries in the world, the Grand Banks, off the coast of Canada, and the Georges banks, off the coast of New England, less than 1% of the edible species of fish remain. The edible fish there are essentially already extinct.
Fishing is also very wasteful especially in light of the global hunger problem. Nearly one of three fish caught are thrown back into the sea, dead or dying each year, because of wasteful fishing practices. Long nets often stretching for miles, are used by industrial fishing boats.
In addition to the fish they intend to catch, they also catch many non-food species of fish which are then thrown back dead or dying – this is known as by-catch. These species, which have been killed for no useful purpose, are removed from the oceanic food chain causing massive ecological disruption. Then there is also the fact that one of every three fish caught goes to feed farm animals, not human beings. Only about one of every three fish harvested from the world’s oceans actually go to feed people
Fish farming is no better for the environment. Fish farms generate a lot of waste. These fish are held in pens and are fed huge amounts of concentrated protein pellets. The leftover pellets, and the waste from the fish themselves, sink to the bottom of the ocean, generating bacteria which consume the oxygen that shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures need to survive, thus destroying their habitats.
The amount of waste produced by fish farms is staggering. For instance, fish farms off the coast of British Columbia produce as much waste as 680,000 people. One professor at the University of British Columbia has termed fish farms as “floating pig farms” because they produce many of the same environmental problems as land-based farms, if not even more. Fish farms also generate a lot of pollution in the way of pesticides used to control algae and antibiotics used to prevent disease from overcrowding.
And as if commercial fishing and fish farming weren’t harmful enough to the environment, land-based animal farms are hurting the oceans as well. Substances found in animal waste, and fertilizers used to grow animal feed, end up in our rivers and streams where they are washed downstream into the oceans. There they cause algal blooms, which use up oxygen in the water contributing to dead zones, where there’s not enough oxygen to support aquatic life. For instance, in the Gulf of Mexico the dead zone stretches over 7,700 square miles. This pollution was causing major problems to the biodiversity of the Gulf, long before the big BP oil spill came along. The problem of dead zones has become widespread. The UN reports that there are now 150 such dead zones around the world.
Now for the good news. You can do your part to help save the world’s oceans and the fish that live in them by following a healthy vegetarian diet, thus reducing the amount of pollution in our oceans, improving the ecosystem, and leaving the fish to live out their lives in peace and freedom.