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  • Writer's pictureMeg

The Environmental Impact: Oceans

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist: the threat is rather to life itself.” — Rachel Carson, Marine Biologist

Shortly after I adopted veganism, a close friend interrogated me during a meal at university saying, “You mean you wouldn’t even eat fish?”

That summer, whilst diving in Indonesia and Thailand with numerous varieties of exotic fish, crabs, turtles and even a shark, I remember being incredibly moved by the simplicity of the lives of these creatures and a surreal sense of peace in their presence. Diving isn’t for the faint hearted. I am extremely claustrophobic and whilst attaining my licence remember resurfacing when the baby oil which was supposed to keep my goggles clear, got in my eyes, blinding and panicking me. Though the pool was only two meters deep, my British diving instructor told me candidly, “In open water, you just killed yourself.” Despite the challenges, diving is like bush-walking, just with another dimension and the experience made me even more passionate about ocean conservation. The ocean is under threat not only due to increasing temperatures associated with more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and toxic pollution from mining and agricultural practices around the world, but also from the increased demand for seafood.

The facts stated below are taken directly from Cowspiracy (see references and resources for original sources:

  • 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted

  • 90-100 million tons of fish are pulled from our oceans each year

  • As many as 2.7 trillion animals are pulled from the ocean each year

  • For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill

  • As many as 40% (63 billion pounds) of fish caught globally every year are discarded

  • Scientists estimate as many as 650,000 whales, dolphins and seals are killed every year by fishing vessels

  • 40-50 million sharks are killed in fishing lines and nets every year

In November I had the privilege of hearing Madison Stewart, also known as Shark Girl (pictured above) speak at a workshop; she soon became a personal hero.

Madison has been diving with sharks since age 12 and made it her life’s mission to protect them, raise awareness about their importance to the ocean’s ecosystem and stop the fishing and illegal finning that endangers them, especially that which occurs in the Great Barrier Reef. In her documentaries she explains her efforts to educate the Australian public about legal shark fishing on the Great Barrier Reef and the dangers of eating flake (shark meat). Not only is the Australian public unaware that they are often consuming shark taken from our amazing Great Barrier Reef, but from a health perspective, shark meat contains mercury and a chemical called BMAA, both of which have neuro-toxic effects (which is to say, they are associated with neuro-degenerative disorders such as dementia). I was shocked to learn that in samples of shark meat Madison took from a Woolworths store in Queensland, the mercury level significantly exceeded the recommended public health standard.

“We no longer live on a planet that requires nothing from us; it is always changing, and things are being effected by our species, everyone has to step up and do their bit. Revolt against the media that claims that sharks are bloodthirsty killers, which is not true. Revolt against the government who allow shark culls. Let your voice be heard any way you can. Refuse to support actions that kill sharks – don’t eat them, don’t eat shark fin soup which causes shark finning. Learn more, like the fact that a single can of tuna is responsible for the death of many sharks as bycatch. What you eat has one of the biggest impacts on the planet. Most important, stand up for our Great Barrier Reef, which is currently home to a legal shark fishery. Things are happening in our waters that are only happening because the government is able to hide and act behind our fear of sharks, and our inability to fight for them. Everyone and anyone has the power to change that.” – Madison Steward in an interview with Billabong

Happy Earth Day,

Meg x

References and Resources


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