Seaspiracy was released only 10 days ago at the time of writing and it’s currently the number 1 film on Netflix in the UK. Have you watched it yet? This new documentary has been produced by the same team behind Cowspiracy (2014), which was about the journey of an environmentalist investigating the destructive meat industry. This time, Seaspiracy looks at the environmental impact of fishing.
So far, I thought eating fish was more “acceptable” than meat and less harmful to the planet. But after watching this documentary, I now think it’s actually way worse. Our oceans are in danger, it’s too easy to close our eyes and ignore what’s happening under water because it’s less visible. If you’re scared to get shocking images stuck in your head forever (some are hard to stomach), then at least be aware of what’s happening in the world before fish end up on your plate.
Key facts from the documentary
Taken from the film itself, below are 8 shocking facts about our ocean:
- 90% of the world’s large fish have been wiped out by fishing
- Slavery in the seafood industry is reported in 47 countries (abuse and murder are common practise on these fishing vessels, it’s easy to make a body disappear in the ocean)
- Governments give $35 billion to the fishing industry every year to keep plundering our seas (when only $30 billion is needed to solve world hunger)
- 250,000 sea turtles are captured, injured or killed by the fishing industry every year in the United States (1,000 turtles die in plastic per year worldwide in comparison)
- 46% of the Great Pacific garbage patch is comprised of fishing nets (which are far more dangerous for marine life than plastic straws because they’re designed to kill)
- 300,000 dolphins, whales and porpoises are killed in fishing nets every year, along with 30,000 sharks per hour
- Enough fishing line is set every day to wrap around the Earth 500 times
- 3.9 billion acres of seafloor is deforested every year by trawling (in comparison, 25 million acres of forest is deforested every year on land)
I think one of the things that shocked me the most was the fact that there is so much focus on the negative impact of plastic straws, when it only represents 0.03% of plastic entering the ocean. It’s nothing compared to how the fishing industry harms sea life – and therefore our planet. 70% of macro plastic at sea comes from fishing gear.
How can we save the ocean?
On their website, they indicate 3 things we should do to help save the ocean:
- Shift to a plant-based diet
- Enforce no-catch marine reserves protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030
- End fishing subsidies (currently $35 billion per year)
Now I know for a fact it’s not easy to shift to a plant-based diet. But it’s not as difficult as it may seem either. It has to be a decision you feel comfortable with, but when you’re ready you’ll have plenty of resources available online. Seaspiracy created a plant-based meal planner to help you with the transition if you want to join the movement. You can set up your personalised journey there and also have access to many awesome fishless recipes!
Why cutting out seafood is best
Food labels don’t guarantee anything
Another shocking fact is that we simply cannot trust labels or certifications on food packaging. There is no way anyone can 100% guarantee they’re compliant. So when you see “certified sustainable seafood”, “responsibly farmed” or even “dolphin safe” for example, it doesn’t mean it’s actually the case. Because the audit that aims to verify the compliance of the requirements normally takes place once a year, it’s virtually impossible to monitor what’s happening on vessels once at sea. There aren’t people there regularly observing and some are bribed to turn a blind eye. Bearing that in mind, stopping eating fish is basically the only way to make sure you’re not contributing to the damages caused by fishing.
There is no such thing as “sustainable fishing”
Can we really believe large-scale extraction of wildlife could ever be “sustainable”? Commercial fishing drives many other species towards extinction. It’s important to remember that when you eat fish, it’s not only that fish that dies… It’s also the huge numbers of bycatch (i.e other fish and marine animals unintentionally caught and killed in the process). Sea turtles are threatened and endangered because of fishing – not because of climate change, ocean pollution or plastic. The population of sharks, whales, dolphins, seabirds etc, also declines because of the loss of fish. If that trend continues, we will have empty oceans within the next few decades. And if the ocean dies, we die.
It’s not humane in the slightest
First of all, it’s wrong to say fish can’t feel pain. They feel pain in a similar way that humans do. Fish are sentient beings, have a nervous system, memory capabilities, they can experience fear and concern… They can even have social lives and team up with other species to find food. One of the scenes in the documentary forced me to take a break, I was crying too much and couldn’t cope with the images. It was about the way they hunted whales in the Faroe Islands, to me it was quite clear they were clever enough to understand what was going on (the whales, not the humans… unfortunately).
What are the fish alternatives?
You might think it’s impossible to replace fish in your meals but the variety of cruelty-free options we have access to nowadays is quite impressive! When I decided to go vegan, salmon was the only thing I missed… It used to be my favourite food. My Japanese roots undoubtedly influence my food habits and I’m so happy to have found a way to prepare makis without fish (see below). So far, I’ve tried 2 brands: VBites and Loma Linda and now I can say I won’t miss salmon anymore… I lost my appetite for it anyway.
There are so many fish alternatives out there, I’m yet to try many more! Below are a few useful links to get you started:
- Vegan Fish and Seafood Recipes That Will ‘Catch’ Your Eye – Peta
- 14 vegan fish recipes that taste like the real thing – Vegan Food and Living
- Top 10 vegan alternatives to fish! – Animal Aid
- Plant-Based Seafood Alternatives You Need to Try – The Vegan Atlas
- Vegan fish alternatives you can buy from supermarkets if Seaspiracy made you want to ditch seafood – Metro UK
- Fish Alternatives Product List (UK) – Veganuary
Hopefully we will see more and more fish alternatives in the coming months or so, everywhere in the world… What’s your favourite alternative so far? If you haven’t tried any yet, would you give it a go?
Big Girl x