Have you ever thought about how the fish you eat get to your plate?
Many come from fish factory farms, where conditions can be so horrible that animals suffer from severe depression and literally give up on life, wasting away in their filthy, crowded enclosures. Additionally, fish factory farms pose a grave threat to the environment and the animals living near these facilities.
And while many people mistakenly think that eating wild-caught fish is better, they’re unaware that the true cost of wild-caught fish is extremely high for animals.
For starters, we’re depleting our oceans at an alarming rate. In fact, scientists warn that oceans will be empty of fish by 2048. That’s just 30 years from now, when many of us will still be around.
But not only do we kill billions of fish for food every year; we kill countless other animals in the process. Because we’re emptying the oceans of fish, populations of animals who depend on these fish for survival are also in decline.
For instance, Atlantic puffins on the Shetland Islands depend on sand eels to survive. Once sand eels were overfished, puffin numbers dramatically fell. Similarly, when herring is overfished, cod populations drop.
Chinook salmon, who are critically endangered and have been on the overfished list since 2015, are the main food source for Southern Resident orcas. Without these fish, pregnant orcas do not get the nutrients necessary to bring their offspring to full term. Each failed pregnancy is disastrous to the Southern Resident orca population, as fewer than 80 whales remain.
And that’s just the start.
In addition to the billions of fish the fishing industry kills for the seafood market, it kills millions of animals unintentionally—victims of the industry’s deadly gear. According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, more than 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises die every year as a result of being caught in fishing gear and nets.
Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, describes 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.
Each year an estimated 50 million sharks are caught unintentionally, about half as many sharks as the estimated 100 million killed by the commercial fishing industry per year for meat and fins. Great white sharks, a particularly vulnerable species, are often killed in long lines and gill nets off the coast of California.
Recently, divers near the Cayman Islands found hundreds of animals trapped and killed in an abandoned commercial fishing net, and their photos went viral on social media. The “ghost net” had likely been drifting in the Caribbean Sea for months, trapping and killing nearly everyone in its path.
New video footage released by Mercy For Animals, SeaLegacy, Sharkwater, and Turtle Island Restoration Network reveals how marine animals—including dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds—are routinely trapped and killed in the commercial fishing industry’s driftnets. Animals were documented being cut apart, pierced with hooks, caught in nets, and left to suffocate aboard fishing boats off the coast of California, prompting three United States legislators to propose a law banning driftnets.
See for yourself.
Luckily, the world is waking up to the plight of animals—both on land and in the sea. With vegan options readily available at places like Whole Foods and plant-based versions of seafood products from companies like Gardein, vegan seafood is poised to rock the plant-based marketplace. Even people we might least expect are indulging in plant-based alternatives.