Here’s How Eating Fish Is Killing Our Oceans

The oceans are under siege. With pollution, climate change, and overfishing, we’re killing our oceans at an alarming rate.

But overfishing is one of the biggest culprits, depleting our oceans of various species on a daily basis. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 32 percent of the world’s fish stocks are being exploited beyond sustainability. That’s right: Almost one-third of all the ocean’s fisheries are being overfished.

What’s scarier? In the Black and Mediterranean seas, about 59 percent of stocks are fished at unsustainable levels. Between 1970 and 2012, the number of fish and other aquatic animals dropped 49 percent primarily due to overfishing, according to a report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London.

Strains on fish species also affect other marine animals searching for food.

Whales, dolphins, and sharks, along with other larger fish, sometimes get caught in fishing gear. In fact, 71 whales were caught in fishing gear on the West Coast last year. Sadly, incidents like these are on the rise.

Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told NPR what it’s like when a whale becomes entangled in a giant fishing net:

Sometimes it can drown the whale immediately, or it can happen over weeks, because they get so tired. They eventually die of exhaustion. If the gear is in their mouths, it impedes their ability to feed. It can amputate their tails or other parts of the body. And for younger whales, the gear may wrap around them, but the whale keeps growing and it cuts into their flesh.

Getting tangled in fishing nets is not the only threat to marine animals. As tuna populations decrease, more sharks are caught on longlines. Longlines, which can hold up to 1,200 hooks, catch a shark one out of every five catches. Each year, about 50 million sharks are killed as bycatch. This threat to some of the ocean’s most important creatures is creating waves. In fact, the U.S. added overfishing protections to six species of shark.

Scientists now warn that our oceans could be empty of fish by 2048.

If you think farming fish is the answer, think again. Many fish raised in factory farms suffer from severe depression, often floating lifelessly in their filthy, crowded tanks. And like their wild counterparts, fish in factory farms suffer cruel fates. A Mercy For Animals investigation found fish flailing around hopelessly as they tried to avoid being skinned alive.


The truth? The most recent science shows that fish feel pain. In an interview with MFA, Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, animal expert and author of What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins, stated:

There are many scientific studies that demonstrate fish pain. For example, zebrafishes are willing to pay a cost to get pain relief. When a painkiller was dissolved in a barren, unpreferred chamber of their tank, fishes injected with a dose of painful acetic acid chose to swim there, but fishes injected with a benign solution stayed in the preferred section of the tank.

We can do something to stop abuse of fish and depletion of our oceans. By adopting a vegan diet, we can stop contributing to all fishing industry ills: pollution, climate change, and overfishing.

Luckily, there are delicious vegan options to satisfy those seafood cravings. Click here for some savory sea-inspired recipes.