3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted. Pic: Pexels

“We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." - Native American Proverb.

We are facing the greatest rate of extinction since the dinosaurs, caused by human activity. Climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, unsustainable agriculture, pollution, pesticides and overfishing are linked to human activity. Without action, today’s children will inherit a planet that will be severely
degraded.

When we think of the word “planet”, we often think of the earth, the land, forests and trees. But did you know that the ocean makes up 70 percent of earth’s total surface? 

Planet earth is majority water and as such we need to take great care of it, for the sustainability and livelihood of our whole planet. For without blue, there is no green.
And yet our ocean is under threat due to overfishing, ocean dead zones, pollution, species extinction, habitat destruction, climate change. 

Did you know that:
 We could see fishless oceans by 2048.
 3/4 of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted.
 As many as 2.7 trillion animals (fish and by-kill) are pulled from the ocean each year, by fishing methods such as trawling, purse seine, long lines, explosives, and other techniques that are damaging ecosystems.
 As many as 40% of fish caught are discarded every year.
 1/5 of fish we eat worldwide are incorrectly labelled.
 It is estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.

It is indeed clear that critical and urgent change is needed in order “to decrease the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic shifts in the Earth system”, as stated by the EAT-Lancet Commission, a group of 37 leading scientists from 16 countries. 

The good news? 

Because we are responsible for this global destruction, it is in our power to make the changes needed.

According to the EAT-Lancet Commission, food is the strongest lever to optimize environmental sustainability. They further say that global food production threatens climate change and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation.

One of the most powerful actions we can take is changing the way we eat. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal products is will ease the pressure on the environment – and improve our health too.

A decrease in the consumption of red meat or dairy foods will have an immediate effect not only on the food system but on our ocean waters too.
A surprising fact is that pigs, chickens and cows are the world’s leading oceanic predators. Farmed land animals are the leading causes of sea pollution, species extinction, habitat destruction and ocean dead zones. 

Why our appetite for meat is affecting the state of our waters.

 Livestock operations on land have resulted in more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones due to waste runoff.

 Pesticides and chemical fertilizers used in the production of feed crops poison waterways.

 Exasperated by climate change – which is largely caused by animal agriculture – more and more heavy metals are leaked into the sea, potentially causing severe health risks for people at all stages of life who eat fish, including deteriorated movement coordination, cognition impairment and more.

Fissh has been found to contain dioxins, PCBs, pesticides like DDT, flame-retardant chemicals, and heavy metals, including mercury, lead, and cadmium, all of which can negatively affect human health.

The most common source of exposure to PCBs may be from eating animal foods, especially fish oil, fish and eggs. Fish are a key source of PCBs, dioxins, and other pollutants because of what washes into the sea.

Farmed salmon averages almost ten times the PCB load of wild-caught salmon. Even fish oil supplements that are marketed as distilled can contain PCBs and other pollutants.
Organic pollutants including PCBs and dioxins can be passed from pregnant mothers to their children. Research has also shown that high fish consumption
affects cognitive performance and slowed perceptual speed and reaction time in kids. This could be because of the growing neurotoxic contaminants, such as mercury, in fish.

Pollutants could also be behind studies that showed that higher intakes of fish were associated with high levels of cognitive impairment and dementia in adults.

They certainly don’t call them “persistent pollutants” for nothing. These chemicals have a long life in the human body; people consuming regular (or even monthly) meals of farmed salmon can end up retaining PCBs and dioxins in their bodies for 50 to 75 years.
“The data is sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action”, the EAT-Lancet Commission says. 

We need to increase the consumption of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes and plant-based meat and fish alternatives), while decreasing animal-based foods. 

There is a need to improve the management of the world’s oceans to ensure that fisheries do not negatively impact ecosystems, fish stocks are used mindfully, and global aquaculture production is expanded sustainably.

About the author:

Tammy Fry is a  philanthropist and a person who believes they can change the world. As the eldest daughter of the Fry Family - three generations of vegetarians and makers of plant-based protein foods, she is a passionate advocate for plant-based nutrition and cruelty-free foods.
She is also the founder of the popular SEED workshop events in SA and Australia.