Have you even been to the beach and came across some litter near the water? It’s not a pleasant sight, and we, humans, are a direct cause. Recently, I came across a video of Secretary of State John Kerry giving a speech at the 2015 “Our Ocean” conference in Chile. It was about how humans are living unsustainably. More specifically, he talked about how poorly we are treating our oceans. Humans are partaking in two specific actions that are causing the ultimate decimation of our ocean’s diverse species: unsustainable fishing and pollution.
Pollution is something that the world has known about for decades. Not many people know what pollution is doing and what it looks like. Millions of tons of plastic float around in the ocean everyday and people don’t think about it because they don’t see it, unlike they do in rivers. Rivers have been given so much attention because they are seen by the public and used by the public every day. The middle of the Pacific Ocean doesn’t see much human traffic, thus almost everything goes unnoticed, including the incredibly large area of trash floating around. This large area of trash, mostly plastic, is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This accumulation of plastic in the middle of the Pacific stretches to both sides. The two densest areas are on either side of Hawaii, known as the Western Pacific Garbage Patch and the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. Not much life calls these areas home, as it is detrimental to the health of most organisms. Such large areas that have the potential to sustain a great amount of diverse species are being inhibited by the actions of careless humans. Unfortunately, this is not limited to the Pacific Ocean. It is taking place in all of the world’s oceans.
Unsustainable fishing is as bad, if not worse than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Many large fishing companies are resorting to methods of fishing that grab the fish that they want, but also the fish that they don’t want. These fishermen use incredibly large nets to trap fish. While trapping the fish they want, they accumulate bycatch. Bycatch is any other marine life that is caught accidentally. Bycatch is usually tossed back into the ocean, most likely dead or wounded. A significant portion of bycatch are usually aquatic organisms of the juvenile age. This process limits their ability to reproduce, or even live much longer at all. As John Kerry stated in his speech, there is “too much money chasing too few fish.” These fisheries are pouring money into an industry that will soon literally die out.
Both of these practices performed by humans are slowly exterminating the fragile ocean ecosystems. Unsustainable fishing is taking large numbers of fish captive, and almost half are thrown back into the ocean. The garbage patches that are appearing around the world are killing aquatic life because of it’s toxicity. More attention needs to be brought to this subject. It needs to be discussed just as much as climate change is being discussed right now. Until then, try to do your part. When shopping for fish, look for sustainable seafood, which is usually labeled as MSC-certified. Also, next time you go to throw that plastic bottle in the trash, stop yourself and recycle it correctly. One person taking action can turn into many people taking action. You can make a big difference by starting the trend.
Written by Taylor Johaneman, ESLLC 2015-2016
“Destructive Fishing Practices and Bycatch.” – Ocean Threats. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.< http://www.slowfood.com/slowfish/pagine/eng/pagina.lasso?-id_pg=43>
“Kerry Pushes for Sustainable Fishing.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 05 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 Oct. 2015. < http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/americas/100000003958958/kerry-pushes-for-sustainable-fishing.html?ref=earth>
“Unsustainable Fishing.” WWF –. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.< http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/>