Last year the world made a shocking discovery: if we don’t change our plastic-using habits, the oceans are set to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Is this a result of fast-declining fish populations or of increased plastic use? Although the report doesn’t directly address our declining fish numbers, the answer is likely both.
Vegan or not, most people would agree that this isn’t a statistic we would welcome with open arms. The impact of plastic in our oceans is largely unknown, but what we do know is that dissolved plastics can be absorbed by fish and larger fish can swallow or choke on bigger pieces. This can result in very sick and possibly dying ocean wildlife in addition to the chemicals in plastics ending up in our food.
So how can we stop this prediction becoming a reality?
Since most of us can remember, the key to protecting the environment has been the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. However, the human race seems to be failing miserably at all three of them.
The demand for plastic is always growing and is 20 times higher than it was in 1964, just 53 years ago. If the current trend continues it’s expected that it will have quadrupled again by 2050. If we’re serious about reducing our plastic waste then consumers need to make changes that will reduce this demand.
Across the UK, NZ and Canada we are being encouraged to cut down on one of the main culprits: plastic bags. Large often now require a charge for plastic bags in an attempt to encourage customers to buy reusable bags instead. But we can do more. For starters we can stop buying bottled water and buy a reusable bottle that we can refill from the tap. We can also boycott the use of straws which are one of worst marine polluters as they are single use and take hundreds of years to break down. And, we can refuse to buy fruit & veg that comes wrapped in plastic.
The report has suggested that the key to reducing the production of plastic is to redesign plastic items so that they’re biodegradable, recyclable and can have more than one use. Already biodegradable plastics are in use and it would certainly benefit the oceans if we supported businesses choosing to use these materials.
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund, the population of marine vertebrate across the globe had dropped 49 percent since 1970. Even more concerning, some commercial fish stocks had declined by nearly 75 percent. The two main reasons for the decline in fish population are commercial overfishing and climate change.
The demand for fish has risen dramatically in the last 65 years, with the average consumption of fish per person being four times greater than in 1950. Couple that with a steep rise in population and that’s a lot more fish being taken out of the oceans. Overfishing can have serious consequences on the underwater ecosystem and the problem has become so severe that it has been suggested that less than 100 cod that live in the North Sea are over the age of 13.
Climate change is also having a huge impact on marine wildlife as rising temperatures is destroying habitats. One of the most frequently discussed victims of global warming is the Great Barrier Reef which is in serious danger of ceasing to exist if sea temperatures continue to rise.
How can the average person help?
By reducing their impact on climate change and by reducing the demand for fish. Thankfully choosing a plant-based diet can do both of those things! Boycotting fish will decrease the demand for it and animal agriculture has a terrible impact on climate change, so saying no to animal products can help reduce your contribution.
Just make sure that you also avoid plastic on all those vegetables you’ll be buying!