Beach goers allowed a baby dolphin to die this week because they wanted a selfie. This is outrageous and disgraceful, we can all agree on that. But what about the 800 dolphins, whales and porpoises that are killed every single day for our appetite for seafood?
It turns out the fishing industry is a lot more destructive than any selfie gone wrong. Bycatch is the unintentional catch of non-target species; it is also the single biggest killer of dolphins and whales across our oceans.
This destruction is carried out in many forms. Bottom trawling tears the ocean apart, with nets as wide as a football field; it scrapes everything up from the ocean floor. In terms of waste and destruction it is the equivalent of clear cutting a forest to hunt a deer.
Gill nets are more like walls of death, spanning 2 miles long, these nets entangle nearly everything that is unlucky enough to cross their path.
Long lines on the other hand can extend 50 miles and are lined with thousands of baited hooks – attracting many species of endangered wildlife.
These methods of fishing are common and extremely widespread. Unfortunately, this means that most things we catch in the ocean results in the needless death of many other species. This includes so-called “Dolphin Friendly Tuna” which it turns out is more of a marketing ploy and may not be so friendly after all.
Shrimp ranks worst on the list of by-catch offenders. While shrimp only weigh in at 2% of the total seafood market, they are responsible for one third of global bycatch. For each pound of shrimp, 10 to 26 pounds of marine life is killed, this includes turtles, sharks, manta rays, dolphins, and whales. Yes, this means a shrimp cocktail could easily be responsible for the death of a baby dolphin.
Not into shrimp? How about some sushi? If a plate of sushi were honest, it would be 5 feet-wide – that is the size needed to hold all of the sea creatures that were unintentionally killed for its place on the menu.
But where is the outrage? A needless selfie-fest kills a baby dolphin and the internet explodes, but who’s raging against the seafood machine?
If you live in the western world, chances are you don’t depend on seafood to lead a healthy life (omega-3s are also available in plant form). Reducing your seafood intake and sticking to sustainable fishing practices, like pole and line caught tuna, could make a huge difference.
Your outrage at the death of a dolphin can be directed to make a difference – but are your taste buds more important than a few dead dolphins?