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  • Eric Lim

Why I'm Quitting Seafood

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

*Originally published on Medium on April 16, 2022


I’m a Korean-American, which means I’ve been eating seafood all my life. Sushi, oysters, fish and chips — I love them all. Fried, boiled, raw, whichever way. Since last month, though, I’ve quit any and all seafood because I’ve come to learn that seafood consumption is killing the planet.


The ocean is one giant bulwark against climate change. It captures more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than any terrestrial ecosystem, but commercial fishing is decimating life in the ocean on a titanic scale and neutralizing the ocean’s power to stabilize the atmosphere.


Here’s the main ways that commercial fishing is killing the ocean:


(1) Fishing itself. Most fish species that we consume are already down something like 80–99% from pre-1850 levels. Take any species like halibut, haddock, tuna, and you get the same picture. We catch and kill 2.7 trillion sea animals every year, and experts say that the ocean will become “empty” by year 2048 at this rate.


(2) Bycatch. Bycatch means fish, turtles, dolphins, sharks, and other marine life that fishing boats do not intend to catch but pick up nonetheless when they pull in the nets. A crazy high number of sea animals are killed off as bycatch every year. To put it into context, sharks kill 10 people around the world on average annually. Plot twist: humans kill 11,000 to 30,000 sharks every hour (not even every day, every HOUR!), approximately half as bycatch.

The turtle here is an example of bycatch

(3) Trawling. Trawling is a fishing practice where a fishing boat puts out a net large enough to scoop up entire cathedrals and drags it along the ocean floor to catch fish, tearing up swaths of sea plants in the process.


(4) Plastic. Fishing nets are the single largest source of plastic in the ocean. 46% of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from fishing nets (if you haven’t heard about the GPGP, look it up at your own risk because the stuff is nasty). Fishing nets entangle, trap, and kill tons of marine life, and the plastic waste that comes from the nets eventually enters our bodies in the form of microplastics.


Consequences

The ocean is the best mechanism for carbon capture that we have available. As a point of reference, sea plants capture 22 time the amount of carbon dioxide as all rainforests in the world combined. We therefore need to keep the marine ecosystem sustainable in order to keep the planet cool. Otherwise, the temperature rise goes out of hand, extreme temperatures ensue, and the end result is draughts, wildfires, floods, etc.


To present you with some more cool facts that I learned from Seaspiracy: phytoplankton in the ocean (which are basically tiny, microscopic sea plants based on my limited science knowledge) does 4 times the amount of carbon capture as the Amazon itself and is responsible for up to 80% of the oxygen that we breathe. Dolphins and whales keep those plankton fertilized by coming up to the surface to breathe and spreading nutrients around as food for the plankton. Similarly, coral reefs also depend on the feces and carcasses of sea animals as nutrients in order to survive.


Another cool piece of knowledge from Seaspiracy is that marine life creates more movement in the oceans than natural oceanic movements (i.e. tides, waves, storms, etc.). This has a great salubrious effect for the environment because the fish columns mix the warmer surface-level waters with the colder deeper waters and help cool down the global temperature.


Conclusion

The good news is that the solution to all this is really, really simple. EAT LESS SEAFOOD! Or zero seafood, if possible…


TL;DR

1. The ocean is our greatest carbon capture mechanism.

2. Commercial fishing kills an astounding number of sea animals every year, every day, every hour.

3. Commercial fishing is thus depriving the ocean of its ability to keep the planet cool.

4. The only feasible way to stop this is to minimize fish consumption.

5. Watch Seaspiracy!



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