Plastic is Devastating, But It’s Not the Ocean’s Biggest Killer

Even if the world was rid of every piece of plastic overnight, marine life would still be in grave danger.


Make no mistake, plastic is devastating but did you know the biggest plastic polluter of all is the fishing industry? The so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of 1.8 trillion pieces of discarded plastic but this is not straws and plastic bottles. Most of it is fishing gear, abandoned in the ocean.

Image credit: Moving Animals

Beyond Plastic

It has been amazing to see the near-global change in mindset towards plastic and its destructive impact upon our environment, particularly our oceans. If you’ve been anywhere near social media for the last few months, you will have no doubt seen tragic clips from Planet Earth II, conversations that use the hashtag #skipthestraw, and news of how giant corporations like Starbucks and McDonald’s are bowing to public pressure and phasing out unnecessary plastic packaging.

By reducing our own plastic use we are doing something positive to help aquatic life. But even if the fishing industry stopped its own plastic pollution, marine life would still be in grave danger.

The Truth About Fishing

Owing to the fishing industry’s staggering rate of destruction, not only do 80% of the world’s fish stocks face depletion, but scientists have predicted that “all of the world’s fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048”. That means if no changes are made, we could see fishless oceans within just 30 years.

Image credit: Moving Animals

No species is safe. The industry term “bycatch” refers to fish that are caught “incidentally”. These are not the target species but those that become tangled up in nets as wide as football pitches, which are dragged along the ocean floor. Cutting out plastic may help prevent dolphins, sharks and whales from swallowing piles of rubbish but these animals and many others will still be caught and killed by the fishing industry. It’s estimated that 50 million sharks are caught unintentionally this way every year, along with turtles, rays and even diving seabirds.

Image credit: Moving Animals

Change Can Happen

Don’t be deflated – saying “no” to straws and other unnecessary plastics is just as easy as choosing fish alternatives. Vegan fish (naturally!) doesn’t require fishing, so it avoids killing dolphins, sharks and turtles, avoids depleting the ocean of its over 200,000+ known species, and avoids polluting the ocean with fishing nets and other fishing gear.

It’s clear that saving our oceans isn’t about solving just one single issue (but cutting down on our plastic usage is a brilliant start) and eating vegan fish alternatives is the logical – and much-needed – next step.

Greene King, a company that runs nearly 150 pubs nationwide in the UK, recently added vegan fish to its menus, claiming to have “the UK’s first truly sustainable ‘fish’ ”. So next time you order your favourite drink from the bar and say #nostrawplease, try ordering the vegan fish, too. By making these type of positive choices, you can help us make sure that once the oceans are finally free of plastic, that there will be plenty of fish and ocean life still around to enjoy them.

Want to give it a try? Check out this tasty beer-battered vegan fish and chips recipe.


Ready to take the Veganuary pledge?

Veganuary is the world's largest vegan movement, inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.