Happy Earth Day! One of my favorite days of the year. As some of you know… In one of my professions, I am a biologist and environmental scientist. I have always loved animals and the environment. I loved them both so much that I made a career out of protecting them.
While I enjoy what I do very much in the environmental sciences, it can also be quite distressing. One of the of the many things very troubling to me is the crisis in the oceans. In our beautiful oceans once full of life and diversity, fisheries are overharvested without much thought. I’ve heard the statistic that half of the ocean’s resources have been depleted. At the rate fish are being caught, they say our oceans could collapse and be empty by 2050. 90% of the large fish in the oceans are gone, 80% of commercial fisheries are overexploited.
Our ocean is so important because half of the oxygen we breathe comes from it. The ocean stores our carbon and return to us breathable air. In this very biodiverse ecosystem of plants and animals, life began. By decimating fish populations and removing apex predators, we are destroying a delicate and vital marine balance. Some scientists conclude that we’ve already passed the point of being able to reverse the damage. We are destroying the biodiversity of our oceans which will be very difficult to restore, who knows how many species that were never ever been identified, have gone extinct.
The way many commercial fisheries harvest fish is with a trawling net, as you can in the picture above and below, a trawling net does what it is designed to do: capture everything in it path, very efficiently. Have you heard the term bycatch? This is the term for the other sea life that are killed in the process of trying to get the target fish in these nets. Bycatch includes animals like; sea turtle, dolphins, whales, sharks, seahorses and birds. All of these other species are picked up in these nets, often with very little ways to escape. They are usually then killed. Every year, at least 7.3 million tons of marine life are caught incidentally. In some fisheries, the percentage of bycatch far outweighs the amount of target catch.
Overharvesting fish populations is not the only crisis in our oceans, we also face a huge problem with pollution. Our ocean is losing fish and these fish are being replaced by plastic. It’s also being filled with debris from irresponsible fishing practices. Many species of marine animals ingest this debris or become entangled in nets, causing them great injury.
While this information can be upsetting, the great news is that there are some fantastic alternatives to fish and seafood out there! And as I’ve mentioned many times before, eating a more plant based/vegan diet can help lessen our environmental impact in many respects.
Here are just a few of my favorites:
Veggie Sushi (nori rolls loaded with veggies are quite divine!)
Gardein Golden Fish Filets, which has become very readily available in many grocery stores and are deeelicious!!!
Miso soup — so easy to make and super healthy too!
Check out my recipe for Tofu Tacos!
And one of my favorite recipes for Tuna-less Salad!!
Vegan toona! This one is a little tougher to find, but can be found online and when mixed with some amazing flavors is quite good! You can by it here!
Check out some of these other great resources too with loads of delicious plant based recipes!
How are you celebrating Earth Day? Do you have any favorite fishless recipes? I’d love to hear your ideas!