Why Seafood Is Hurting Our Planet

Why Seafood Is Hurting Our Planet

I’m not a picky eater, but I’m not a big fan of seafood. I may be the only adult born and raised in Maryland who doesn’t know how to pick crabs and I really have no desire to learn. I do love crab cakes, and I put old bay on everything, but that’s the closest I can get to being a fan of seafood.

Most people I know who really love their seafood take pride in knowing exactly where what they’re eating came from. Store bought products may say where the product was caught, restaurants almost always say exactly wear their clams, oysters, cod, etc came from and they take great pride in it. What they may not realize is that some of the seafood being caught off of the coasts of America and sold for consumption are contributing to the environmental crisis we’re facing.

America got behind the plastic straw bans so quickly, most restaurants stopped handing out straws by the end of 2018. Plastic bags are quickly meeting their demise as well as multiple states have banned their use, and more people are discovering the fact that those bags are not recyclable anymore. Even though plastic straw bans aim to help save the marine animals, they’re missing the fact that fishing equipment makes up over half of the waste in our water.

Ever heard of the great pacific garbage patch? It’s in the middle of the ocean, and it’s twice the size of Texas. Almost 50% of the waste found in the patch is nets and equipment used by the seafood industry. Small marine animals can get caught up in the garbage patch, and some animals found in the area of the patch have had over 75% of the contents in their belly to be some form of plastic. Other marine life have been impacted by the industry as well, ingesting waste products left in the ocean, losing some of their food resources and being exposed to more toxins.  

One of the most problematic parts of the seafood industry is the process of bycatching. When large nets are used to catch types of seafood, other types of seafood can’t help but to get mixed up in the situation and end up getting caught as well. Only, the fishermen can’t use them, so they throw them back into the sea. More often than not, the animals impacted by bycatching are already dead or badly injured from the process and end up being waste floating in the sea.

Another major problem caused by the fishing industry is the impact on the Whales that live off of the Pacific coast. A pod of killer whales made headlines last year after a whale carried her dead calf for over two weeks. The pod is the smallest it has been in over 35 years and is in poor health, mainly due to the lack of salmon available to them. The orcas diet is mainly salmon, which is caught in the PNW and sold for food. In addition to the fight for food, the noises from fishermen and the equipment and ships used for seafood catching has put up barriers to the orcas ability to communicate with one another and be tuned in to their surroundings.

The first calf to survive since 2016 was born in January of this year, and has been reported to be alive and healthy, bringing the population up to 75. A new calf was spotted last week off the coast, which means that things could be looking up for the southern resident killer whales.

So what to do? Cut back on fish. I know, it’s devastating. Not to me, but maybe to you. Cut back on your seafood and please do not pride yourself on finding fish caught in the pacific Northwest for dinner tomorrow night.