The ocean is the heart and soul of this beautiful planet, providing us with not only the greatest source of protein, but the majority of our oxygen. Through continued exhaustion and damage to marine ecosystems, we are inflicting inevitable damage on our future populations.
The central problem is the untold truth about where most of the plastic in our ocean comes from, and how your meal choice has potentially contributed to it, due to the multibillion dollar industry surrounding commercial fishing.
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Commercial net fishing is known primarily for catching target species, but what is not disclosed is the immense amount of non-target species, known as bycatch, that are shot in the process.
These “sustainably” labeled nets capture and drag bycatch, including sea turtles, dolphins and seabirds for miles, until they were finally hauled up and thrown injured or dying.
This type of fishing leads to the degradation of these populations at a faster rate than they can reproduce and reconstitute and if the overexploitation of these populations continues, there will ultimately be nothing left.
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The problems facing our oceans do not end with overfishing. About 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone.
Single-use plastic is a huge contributing factor, but fishing nets known to kill an estimated 0.97-2.7 billion fish each year, not counting the 63 billion pounds of species accidentally caught, are the main waste. plastics found in our oceans.
The ideal and immediate solution to this problem would be for everyone to stop eating seafood, yet that is impossible. I understand that this colossal problem cannot be solved overnight, but we must all help save ecosystems that cannot defend themselves.
Incorporating proper recycling, helping clean up local beaches, and disposing of single-use plastics by removing plastic grocery bags, solo cups, styrofoam plates, plastic silverware , plastic straws, and the switch from plastic water bottles to reusable bottles, are a great place to start. These changes are super easy to integrate into your daily life and if we strive to spread this information, together we can make a change.
Kaeleigh McKnight is a recent graduate student from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s degree in biology.