The Majority of Your Trash isn’t Disposed of by You

While working on this project of a blog, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing just on the waste that we ourselves put into the trash or recycling bin. We see it every day, how could we not notice it. On top of what we see getting tossed, we’ve all probably seen the accumulation of our waste collecting in oceans and rivers around the world. But what if I told you that is only the tip of the iceberg? Pun intended.

If you are like me and millions of others, you have a Netflix account. And if you have spent any amount of time on Netflix over the last few weeks, you’ve likely seen promotion for a new documentary: Seaspiracy. To give you the cliff notes of what the film claimed, industrial fishing is destroying our oceans and the environment in general.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Between the amount of fishing gear tossed into the sea, the amount of unintended animals caught (bycatch) such as dolphins, turtles, whales, and sharks, and the destructive use of certain fishing styles such as trawling, we are causing irreparable harm. I know, it’s a lot. And the film goes into depth about a lot more of these issues, but you get the gist.

The ultimate conclusion of the film is that we can reduce the amount of damage being done by the fishing industry by reducing or completely stopping our consumption of fish. This is similar to other ideas i’ve discussed. If fishing is really as damaging as the film portrays, by large amounts of people changing their behavior, they can force the entire fishing industry to respond due to financial pressure.

I wanted to give it some time before making my first knee jerk reaction. Right after watching the film, I was feeling a bit defeated because this issue that I was completely unaware of seemed insurmountable. Plus, as someone that has been trying to be conscience of my red meat consumption and reduce it where possible, I couldn’t help but feel like no matter what choice I make, I’m causing damage somewhere.

While its true there are tradeoffs in everything we do, we can still make changes in the right direction. The motto is progress over perfection. Everything we do might not be perfect, but as long as we keep taking steps in the right direction, we will make things better.

After the first week of the movie release, I wasn’t surprised to start seeing counter arguments. One of the biggest complaints was that the film was simply vegan propaganda and misrepresenting data for their advantage. While I found some of these counterarguments to hold some validity and make solid points, they seemed to be just as guilty of approaching with a bias as the film.

One of the issues I was most concerned with was the amount of fishing gear that is simply disposed of into the ocean. I never realized that a large portion of plastic found in the ocean is caused by fishing nets and gear (duh, makes sense). The statistics vary quite a bit depending on how you measure. Some sources claim that 86% of large plastic (greater than 8″) in the great pacific garbage patch is fishing gear. Other sources claim that 46% of the mass in the garbage patch (greater than 2″) is from fishing nets. Regardless of how you are measuring and the exact percentage, it’s a lot!

Photo by Dave Robinson on Unsplash

The biggest problem with this large amount of fishing nets in the ocean is that they continue to do what they are designed for even after being discarded: kill marine life. Your plastic straw or water bottle are of littler concern by comparison. However, every time you purchase fish and products derived from them, you are supporting this industry and more nets being tossed overboard. Each dollar spent is a vote for the behavior to continue.

While the film may not have been perfect, I would say the sentiment that if we reduced our fish consumption, we accumulatively would reduce these issues (even if the data are skewed) is true. There are definitely people that need fish to survive, but for those of us that can go without, shouldn’t we? I live in the desert and going to all-you-can-eat sushi just seems excessive. I know this is an industry that holds peoples livelihoods, but just like I wouldn’t advocate to keep the coal industry going over green energy just because it’s peoples livelihoods, I wouldn’t advocate for keeping the fishing industry going for that reason alone.

If you want to see more information about that film you can visit the website where they have a dedicated fact page listing sources of all the data they represent in the film. Did you watch the film? I’d love to hear your feedback about what you thought about the film and what would be the best approach to solve these issues.