World Aquatic Animal Day: All About Aquatic Animals and Plastic Pollution
How to consider World Aquatic Animal Day everyday.
Did you know that globally, we catch 0.79 to 2.3 trillion fish every year from the wild for food? On top of that, aquaculture farms billions more each year. When fisherman catch fish in the wild, we use huge fishing nets, often catching whales and dolphins as “bycatch.” Then, we pollute the ocean with plastic waste and ruin their habitats.
Despite the growing fishing industry, we don’t have extensive animal welfare laws for fish, the way to do for other animals. This is why the Lewis & Clark Law School created World Aquatic Animal Day.
World Aquatic Animal Day
The purpose of World Aquatic Animal Day is to draw attention to the animals that live in oceans, rivers, and lakes. In addition to our fishing practices, what we do on land has a huge effect on aquatic animals. A huge amount of the plastic that ends up in the ocean is from our actions on land. Cigarette butts, shopping bags, plastic bottles, and food wrappers are all common litter that end up in the ocean. Then there’s chemical pollution, most of which comes from chemical runoff on farms, especially fertilizer. These chemicals create a toxic environment for aquatic animals and are harmful to humans as well.
Overfishing & fishing nets
In order to catch wild fish, the fishing industry uses huge walls of fishing nets and long fishing lines of up to 100km in length. They bait these traps with thousands of hooks and connect rope lines with ocean floor traps. The result is bycatch: these traps capture many fish and aquatic animals that weren’t the target of the operation. In this manner, hundreds of thousands of dolphins and whales are caught and killed yearly. Those who break free often find themselves wrapped in netting, which cuts through their skin, sometimes causing infections, painful injuries, starvation, and death.
While much of our plastic trash on land ends up in the ocean, fishing net pollution is a huge issue as well.
- Over 100,000 dolphins, whales, turtles, and seals are injured or killed due to abandoned fishing nets every year.
- In the Great Pacific Garbage patch (which is exactly what it sounds like – a giant patch of trash in the middle of the ocean,) fishing nets are 46% of the total plastics found there.
- 85% of plastic pollution on ocean ridges, seamounts, and the seafloor is from fishing equipment.
- Of the 6 tonnes of garbage gathered from Henderson Island – a remote island in the Pacific Ocean – 60% was from fishing industry debris.
Unfortunately, this is all because the demand for fish continues to grow.
- Today, we eat double the amount of fish we ate 50 years ago – an average of 19.2kg yearly.
- In the last 40 years, we’ve seen a decrease in marine species by 39%.
- 12-28% of worldwide fishing is illegal and unregulated (i.e. whaling, sharks, etc.)
- More than 60% of fish are fully fished while 30% are overfished worldwide.
- Overfishing is worse in certain areas – of the fish we have data on in the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, 88% are overfished.
- The world’s primary importer of fish is the European Union.
- Over 50% of imports come from developing countries.
What you can do to support World Aquatic Animal Day
Protecting aquatic animals is a complex issue. Many people around the world, especially in developing countries, rely on fishing financially. However, when we spend our money on fish, we have to think about what we’re supporting: the accidental injuring and death of hundreds of thousands of dolphins, whales, seals, and turtles. Purchasing fish also supports fishing net pollution and overfishing, which can cause huge issues in the food chain.
So what can you do? First, limiting fish intake is the best thing you can do. Call your representatives and local government and ask them to support laws to help reduce these issues and to protect aquatic animals. Talk to your friends and family about why you’re choosing to eat less fish – you never know who you might inspire!
Watch Seaspiracy and encourage your friends to watch it with you. Sign a petition or donate to a trusted charity. Finally, you can also work on limiting your own plastic use. If you need fun support, join the Aim Plastic Free challenge! You can join here – expect daily tips and community support.
I hope you’ve found this blog helpful! What’s your thoughts on how to protect marine life – add your input below.
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