In India and around the world, there is a growing trend to ditch disposable plastic. Recently, news of the plastic ban in Mumbai and Maharashtra sent waves across mainstream and social media. The last season of KBC, hosted by Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, featured Mumbai lawyer Afroz Shah, who devotedly cleans the beaches of Mumbai. He started on his own in 2015 and now leads a group that has removed an incredible 4,300 tonnes of plastic waste from the beaches of Mumbai. Yes, you read that right—4,300 tonnes from only a few beaches. This waste is not only disgusting but destructive. And while single-use plastic objects add significantly to the waste polluting our oceans and waterways and devastating marine ecosystems, the fishing industry is a bigger and more dangerous threat.
We don’t deny that limiting the use of plastic bags and other disposable plastic stuff helps reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. This well-intentioned crusade is certainly a valiant effort to help the planet. But we want to point out that the vast majority of plastic in our oceans is abandoned fishing gear.
Now, we’re not saying you shouldn’t consciously reduce the amount of plastic in your life, but if we’re going to be strategic about this, we should really boycott the commercial fishing industry and stop eating seafood. Let’s look at the facts.
A survey by scientists with Ocean Cleanup, an organisation working to develop technologies to reduce ocean plastic, found that at least 46 percent of the plastic in the “Great Pacific garbage patch,” a floating gyre the size of France made up of plastic, comes from fishing nets. Miscellaneous discarded fishing gear makes up the majority of the rest.
World Animal Protection reports that 640,000 tonnes of gear are lost and pollute oceans each year. But the impact of this abandoned fishing gear goes well beyond pollution. “Ghost nets,” for example, are a danger to marine habitats and sea life. In 2016 there were 71 reported cases of whales caught in abandoned fishing gear off the U.S. Pacific coast.
Earlier this year, disturbing photos of hundreds of dead animals caught in an abandoned commercial fishing net off the coast of the Cayman Islands went viral. The ghost net had likely been drifting in the Caribbean Sea for months, trapping and killing nearly everyone in its path.
Furthermore, human consumption of seafood is responsible for the deaths of countless sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and porpoises. The National Journal estimates that about 20 percent of all animals caught in commercial trawling nets are “bycatch,” or unwanted animals.
Recent video footage released by Mercy For Animals, SeaLegacy, Sharkwater, and Turtle Island Restoration Network reveals how marine animals—including dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds—are routinely trapped and killed in the commercial fishing industry’s driftnets. Investigators documented animals being cut apart, pierced with hooks, caught in nets, and left to suffocate aboard driftnet fishing boats off the coast of California.
See for yourself.
While ditching plastic straws, bottles, and bags may make you feel good, the best thing we can do to help marine life and the planet is to leave fish off our plates and switch to a compassionate vegan diet.
Ready to get started? Check out these innovative vegan seafood companies and click here to learn more.