Shark Week (and how it relates to the vegan diet) — A Case For Plant Based
We are less than one week away from Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week! I look forward to this event all year. Shark Week is my Christmas!
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by sharks. Great whites are my favorite shark obsession, so it’s no surprise that I opted to have a close encounter with them while my husband and I lived in Australia. (We’ll get to that in a minute!)
Sadly though, the shark population is in jeopardy. And you may be surprised to learn that eating an omnivore diet is a large contributor.
The fishing industry and bycatch
Banning the killing of sharks for sport or for their fins is widely supported. That’s a no-brainer. However, millions of sharks every year are senselessly killed as a result of the commercial fishing industry.
Bycatch (or bykill) is defined as unwanted fish and other marine creatures which are accidentally caught or killed during commercial fishing for a different species. Nets and lines are released into the ocean and can catch anything in its path.
Marine life may be entangled in fishing gear (nets, hooks, etc) or injured while fishing is performed. These various species include dolphins, turtles, birds, unwanted fish, and even sharks. Once pulled up onto the boat, the injured and unwanted animals are discarded overboard as they are dying or already dead.
An estimated 1 in 5 marine life caught is bycatch.
About 100 million sharks are killed every year for their meat and fins. But now, nearly 50 million sharks are killed unintentionally every year by the fishing industry. Fifty million.
Conservation of sharks is becoming more and more important as many shark species are especially vulnerable to overfishing.
96% of the world’s fish stock, as monitored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, are in danger of being depleted. In terms of quantities left, “fully exploited” fish stock means that the fishery is operating at or close to optimal yield level with no room for expansion. “Depleted” means catches are well below record levels. In U.S. fishing regions (such as salmon, grouper, or shrimp catch), the quantity of fish left ranges from fully exploited to depleted.
If you’d like to read more about the agonizing, inhumane death that fish endure so that you can enjoy your “healthy” salmon dinner, scroll to page 15 on this report.
Oceana is a great resource to learn more about this gut-wrenching subject. If you don’t read the full article, at the very least, look at the photos.
While technology to decrease bykill is improving, we are depleting our oceans and waterways at an alarming rate. And at this rate, some fish populations and ecosystems may not be able to recover. In fact, a 2006 study estimated that at the current pace of fishing depletion, there will be no fish for consumption left in our oceans by 2048.
Currently, the world’s fishing fleet is two to three times larger than the oceans can support. 85% of the world’s fish populations are either nearly extinct, on the way to extinction, or at an unsustainable population size.
Animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean dead zones and water pollution. So even if we abstain from eating seafood, by consuming meat and dairy, we are still contributing to the loss of our oceans.
Dead zones are low oxygen areas in the world’s oceans and lakes where aquatic species and plants can no longer survive. Most often the cause of human activity, dead zones have continued to increase due to agricultural practices, industrial activity, and population growth.
In the United States, one of the main contributors to dead zones is waste runoff from industrial farming and the use of animal manure and commercial fertilizers in agriculture. Overfishing and climate change also contribute around the world.
Worldwide, more than 400 dead zones (roughly 95,000 square miles) have been identified. These numbers have increased dramatically in the last couple of decades. Over 200 oceanic “ areas of concern “ also currently exist around the world.
Dead zones are reversible if the causes are drastically reduced or eliminated.
In order to save sharks and other marine life, we must stop supporting the industries that are destroying them.
Sharks are not man-eating creatures and pose no threat to humans-until we set foot in their environment. Sharks do not go out of their way to hunt human beings; however, when we’re in “their house,” the risk is there. But the more I’ve learned throughout the years, and especially in my research since becoming vegan, it’s exceptionally clear that humans are a far greater threat to sharks than sharks are to humans.
Shark Week! 🦈
Who else needs something uplifting after these disheartening facts?! 🙋♀️
Since Shark Week is fast approaching, get in the spirit with some of these great Shark Week shows on the Discovery Channel!
In addition to the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube are also great resources to watch videos and learn more about sharks and bycatch. A few examples include:
Shark Week is still, and always will be, my favorite. It’s like Christmastime: many other channels have tried to copy them, but there will only be one Countdown to Christmas on the Hallmark channel. It’s the original and the best. 😉
Great White Sharks in South Australia
As I’m sure you’re realizing by now: I love sharks…like borderline obsessed. They are magnificent creatures that should be respected and protected.
It was a life-changing experience when my husband and I made a trip to South Australia to do a cage diving encounter with great whites. Everything about it was natural for the animals, highly regarded, and humane. (Like something you would see on the Discovery Channel). Except this time, I was the one in the cage. 😱
It was one of the most awe inspiring moments of my life. To see these incredible beings up-close and personal, in their natural habitat was astonishing.
This experience is something I will never forget and will always hold close to my heart. It gave me a greater desire to protect, not only sharks, but our oceans and environment as a whole. In that moment, I had no idea this journey would lead me here, but I’m incredibly grateful it did.
My husband and I also went swimming with sharks on our honeymoon in Bora Bora; admittedly, this time was more nerve-racking as we were in open water. Very humbling and adrenaline inducing!
Every bite of food, every action I take and decision I make, I consider the effects on animals, the environment, my health, and the future of mankind.
Every choice we make has consequences. We must act now before it’s too late.