This is what globalisation looks like for the oceans.
Orange: Fishing Vessels (Image: marinetraffic.com)
Green: Cargo ships | Red: Tankers (Image: marinetraffic.com)
Put on a map like this, it puts into perspective how much “stuff” we ship around all over the world. Supply chains are increasingly complex systems for the manufacturing of products that seem rather mundane, at least to me (e.g. clothing, household goods, handbags – just to name a few).
Whilst “stuff” may not be something we really need, food is. A lot of our food (+ live stock) covers a large distance across the sea until it reaches us, increasing the food miles of what we eat. In a globalised, modern world we enjoy food grown miles away from where we are, however it’s not really a very sustainable system. A simple solution to avoiding these food miles, is to purchase from nearby farmers, growing some of your own and buying only locally grown food (if you live in an area of the world where food grows quite easily – which most of us in the western world do do.)
By sticking to food in it’s natural state (fruit, vegetables, beans etc.) and processing it yourself (e.g. guacamole) you can make sure a lot of unnecessary packaging, waste and pollution is avoided. And it’s so much better for your health too. Also, a diet free from animal products is a great way to support a healthier planet, however more on that in another post.
WWF released a statement showing in what a bad state the oceans are today. Some of the culprits are habitat destruction, pollution, littering, deep-sea mining and fishing.
Plastic is a one of the top pollutants of the ocean. Especially, single-use plastic. If you look around, you will see it everywhere. Food is often packed in plastic and it is also used in almost every food item we buy to take-away (e.g. coffee cups, containers, straws wrappers).
Many of our consumer items are also made from plastic; ranging from pens, containers, to toys and fashion items (and so many more!). It’s everywhere. And it almost always ends up in the oceans.
Another source of pollutants are oils and chemical waste from factories and farms all over the world. They easily end up in the ocean, causing the marine environment to suffer. Chemicals in the ocean alter the acidity (ph levels) of the water and with it the very source that sustains life on this planet. Whilst the ocean absorbs 25% of CO2, the large amounts of emissions are too much for the seas to safely absorb.
Let’s get to our next point; fishing.
90% of fish globally are classified as overexploited or fully exploited. And demand is growing, rather than declining.
Fishing greatly contributes to the problem of pollution and health risks for marine life. Often fishing nets are left behind and dolphins, whales, turtles and other sea life get tangled in the net. There are “Dolphin Safe” certifications, however the impact they actually have is minimal, as not many of these certification bodies actually oversee the fishing companies.
I do believe that the actions you take as an individual will have an impact. If we all make changes to our lifestyle, diets and the way we consume, we can certainly make a difference to the health of our oceans.
There are a few simple changes you can make, that will have a big impact:
- Research where your products come from & try and source locally made products where possible.
- Take litter on beaches/national parks with you and dispose of them responsibly.
- Join a beach clean-up day.
- Don’t eat fish or reduce your fish intake.
- If you do eat fish research where it comes from, it’s supply chain and any certifications (some certifications are “green-washed”, so make sure you look into this).
- Eat locally grown food & support your local farmers.
- Buy unpackaged food, whenever you can. Bulk food stores are common these days, you simply bring your own containers and buy the amount you need.
- Choose well, buy less. Decide to get better quality products that won’t need replacing every few months/years.
- Upcycle and shop in thrift stores for furniture/fashion items.
Thank you very much for reading. I hope this has been helpful & gives you some insight into the health of our oceans as well as what you can do as an individual to help.