*Content Warning: animal cruelty*
The ocean is in danger, and we are the cause. How can the ocean be endangered when right now, somewhere along the west coast, a young humpback whale practices her breaching? She reaches the surface and dives back down again, traveling to Costa Rica with her pod.
She may be happy now, but she might end up as bycatch like many others in the the Pacific. Bycatch is unwanted marine animals and fish caught during commercial fishing, all of which are thrown overboard, some of which are dead before they hit the water. Millions of tons of marine life is caught every year, 40% of that being bycatch (WWF). A few miles off the coast of Japan, a minke whale is caught in a fishing net and suffocated on the deck of a fishing vessel, only to be thrown back into the water because it’s considered bycatch.
Kesennuma City happens to be one of Japan’s biggest shark finning homes. Nearly 75 tons of sharks are killed daily for their fins just in this city. In Norway, sailors circle pods of whales and slaughter them one by one- no matter their age. Hundreds of corpses sit on the coast, the entire pod dead. On the coast of France, Nearly 10,000 dolphin bodies float up from the sea, all between January and March. In Peru, about 15,000 dolphins are harpooned per year, despite the act being illegal.
Despite their importance to the Earth, fishing vessels still continue to use a certain method called “bottom trawling”. Bottom trawling is when a fishing vessel drags a large net along the seafloor. These nets drag along the seabed (ocean floor) capturing fish and completely destroying ecosystems. What once may have consisted of coral, plants and sea creatures, now has nothing. What most people don’t know is that plants on land only create about one fourth of our oxygen supply, 70% of it being produced by sea plants (Nat Geo Society). Considering the Earth is made up of 71% water, it makes sense that it also creates the most oxygen (Phys.org). Bottom trawling devastates marine plant life, decreasing the ocean’s oxygen supply.
Another common fishing method is called fish farming or “Aquaculture”. On farms fish are raised as livestock within netted areas. This method has been deemed safe, sustainable and a groundbreaking new method. However, none of that is true. Fish farming is dated before 1000 B.C.E. in China (alimitarium). The large-scale fish farming used today is neither safe for fish nor the ocean’s ecosystem. Containing fish in small spaces of water where they are unable to migrate allows disease to spreads like wildfire, killing a large percentage of fish. Waste and chemicals are often dumped into ecosystems surrounding fish farms, but not only that, without fish the entire food chain within those ecosystems becomes unbalanced. How can removing a species from its natural environment to farm them be sustainable? According to Peta.org, it is quite simply the opposite of sustainable.
Commercial fishing has become the world’s most deadly job (aside from combat) with about 25,000 deaths on board per year. Global fishing industries are also rife with human, organ, sex and drug trafficking.
The corruption that slithers through this industry does not stop there. In a NOAA Dolphin Safe office, employees work to put their labels on products. They claim that the Dolphin Safe label ensures the safety of dolphins within fisheries. But in reality, they have no idea what really happens out on the ocean. Captains of fishing vessels “document” what they had caught per trip. No one checks to make sure what they track is true, and Peta.org has investigated fisheries for bribing the Dolphin Safe employees to give them the label despite killing dolphins.
But it is not only the waters that we should worry about, in fact, the entire Earth needs to be cared for. As well as everything that lives on it. Changing our behavior will be hard, not impossible. But it starts with you and me. People believe that they will not make a difference, but as Northwest School students, and as human beings, we can make a difference. Even if it seems to be small. A simple act like picking up trash, sorting waste, minimizing our one-time-use products, buying from small businesses, or those who work towards ecological change, limiting our meat intake, encouraging others to do the same or even just being conscious of our actions are all great ways to step in the right direction.