There’s a growing movement to ditch single-use straws as a way to reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. And while this well-intentioned crusade is certainly a valiant effort to help the planet, we can’t help but point out that the vast majority of plastic in our oceans is abandoned fishing gear.
Now, we’re not saying you shouldn’t stop using plastic straws and consciously reduce the amount of plastic in your life, but if we’re going to be strategic about this, we should really boycott the commercial fishing industry and stop eating seafood. Let’s look at the facts.
A survey by scientists with Ocean Cleanup, an organization working to develop technologies to reduce ocean plastic, found that at least 46 percent of the plastic in the “Great Pacific garbage patch,” a floating gyre the size of France made up of plastic, comes from fishing nets. It’s worth noting that miscellaneous discarded fishing gear makes up the majority of the rest.
World Animal Protection reports that 640,000 tons of gear are lost and pollute oceans each year. But this abandoned fishing gear goes well beyond pollution. “Ghost nets,” for example, are a danger to marine habitats and sea life. In 2016 there were 71 reported cases of whales caught in abandoned fishing gear off the U.S. Pacific coast.
Earlier this year, disturbing photos of hundreds of dead animals caught in an abandoned commercial fishing net off the coast of the Cayman Islands went viral. The ghost net had likely been drifting in the Caribbean Sea for months, trapping and killing nearly everyone in its path.
Furthermore, human consumption of seafood is responsible for the deaths of countless sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and porpoises. The National Journal estimates that about 20 percent of all animals caught in commercial trawling nets are “bycatch,” or unwanted animals.
Recent 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. Investigators documented animals being cut apart, pierced with hooks, caught in nets, and left to suffocate aboard driftnet fishing boats off the coast of California.
See for yourself.
You can help protect marine life by urging the California legislature to ban driftnets. Click here to take action.
While ditching plastic straws may make you feel good inside, the best thing we can do to help marine life and the planet is to leave fish off our plates and switch to a compassionate vegan diet.