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February 9, 2021

Why we Need to Protect Marine Life (& How to Do it).

We are each mini-oceans—wild, robust, salt-water seas.

The problem with sushi is the fish.

Don’t get me wrong. I love fish just as much as any sushi lover. It’s just that I love fish in their home—the ocean—more than I love them in my stomach.

A study published recently in Nature found that fish populations—particularly sharks and rays—have crashed by 71.1 percent from 1971 to 2018 due to overfishing.

You may be thinking to yourself, “What do sharks and rays have to do with my sushi?” Well, for every fish caught in our modern industrial fishing practices, there is another unwanted fish caught and killed as well. This is called “bycatch.”

A massive 40 percent of the world’s ocean catch is bycatch—collateral damage. Caught, unwanted, killed, and discarded at sea. These animals include whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and an infinite variety of other unwanted sea life.

A functioning ocean filled with life is necessary for all life on Earth. The ocean provides the oxygen we breathe, absorbing more carbon dioxide than all forests on land. Every breath we take has passed through the ocean first.

The oceans are by far the largest carbon sink in the world. Some 93 percent of carbon dioxide is stored in algae, vegetation, and coral under the sea.

More than all the pine trees, fir trees, cedar trees, and sequoia trees on land—a functional ocean with its ocean currents exchanging cold and warm waters, upwelling nutrients, with a healthy, vibrant fish population supplies us with the oxygen for a temperate, survivable climate.

Daniel Pauly, a marine biologist well-known for work in studying human impact on global fisheries, describes the world’s governments as having a “fishing-industrial complex”—a Ponzi scheme that will leave the future generations with a fishless ocean. Some 394,819 fish were killed globally in the 10 seconds it took for you to read this sentence.

And all of us who continue to eat fish are complicit in allowing these marine animals to be accidently killed in bycatch.

But there is nothing accidental about it. With numbers like those, killing sharks and rays and other marine life is a part of doing business; it’s just baked into the product.

Unfortunately, in the industrialized, modern world, there seems to be no such thing as sustainable seafood. Sushi is simply a socially acceptable form of pillaging the ocean.

The ocean and the life she holds matters, and our connection to her is vital.

The watery portion of our blood—the plasma—has a concentration of salt and other ions, which are remarkably similar to seawater.

We are each mini-oceans—wild, robust, salt-water seas. Rumi, the great Sufi mystic poet, described it like this: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” Yet, we peer out onto a sea of humanity with a separate, limited sense of self. In reality, it is the larger source from which we came. Our unity is the ocean itself and beyond.

It is possible to live a life true to our inherent values of compassion and ocean conservation. We can do better than simply accepting the exploitive relationship with nature handed to us by past generations.

A vegan, plant-based diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce our impact on planet Earth. Going vegan is a giant step toward a healthier ocean and protecting the life she holds. After all, emptying the ocean of life leaves us all empty.

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