The sustainability of our oceans is closely related with the state of the living beings that inhabit them. Many species are in danger due to man's actions, such as mass hunting of dolphins for food (and especially their sale to dolphinariums), of whales for their meat or for cosmetic use, sharks just for their fin...
The health of our oceans is no longer marked by contamination, acidification and over-exploitation. These and other species are being threatened by man's actions for suspicious reasons. In order to grow sustainably, we should know and avoid these practices that are heading various species for disaster:
The hidden danger of dolphinariums
Killings like those in the Faro Islands (Denmark), or Taiji (Japan) is an indiscriminate execution of dolphins. Although these small cetaceans aren't (yet) in danger of extinction, their number is decreasing throughout the entire planet. Additionally, a moral question is raised, since these animals are known for their intelligence and sociability, they have even interacted with humans during many documented cases.
In the case of Denmark, there is a tradition of killing between 1000 and 2,500 dolphins, to celebrate the youth from the island becoming adults. This is a cruel celebration that takes advantage of the trust that these whale dolphins feel for humans.
The reasons for carrying out this mass killing in Japan are unclear. Thousands of dollars are paid by dolphinariums throughout the world for these animals, which brings the problem to light. Since it has been proven that eating these animals is unhealthy (they carry a dangerously high level of substances such as mercury), this shows that the cause is actually personal gain from their sale to dolphinariums around the world.
*See video of the Oscar winning documentary 'The Cove'
What's actually behind shark fin soup
Once again, popular beliefs in certain Asian countries are decimating a species at a breakneck pace. In restaurants throughout the world 'sharkfin soup' is served as a delicacy. Understanding how this fishing is done and the consequences for the species, is fundamental for not consuming these products, which are obtained in a cruel and unsustainable manner: 'Shark finning'.
In this practice, the sharks are captured and their fins are extracted while they are still alive. Once this operation is finished, they are thrown back into the water still alive, where they suffer a slow and painful death. This method of capture is so serious that it is prohibited in the European Union, but it is still legal in many other places where this soup that we see on the menus of restaurants throughout the world comes from.
Another reason for this indiscriminate fishing is the belief in traditional Chinese medicine that the shark's cartilage has beneficial properties.
Whale hunting for 'scientific' purposes
The judges of the International Court of Justice have decided to put a stop to whale hunting by Japan, in an historical decision that was announced on March 31, 2014, and which coincides with the growing international concern for the status of this species.
Under the pretext of "scientific research", since 1987, Japan has a captured an average of 400 whales each year in the Antarctic, according to the Japanese Fishing Agency. In 2008 they captured a total of 679. Their annual captures, however, dropped to 103 in 2012 due to, according to the Japanese Government, the activities of ecological groups in protest of hunting this species.
Thus, this year marks a milestone in the protection of this species, thanks to international pressure and an awareness of our oceans' sustainability.
What can we do? Knowledge and awareness is key
- From our position as citizens concerned for sustainability and the environment, we must first be aware of the levels of consumption that we generate by pressuring the planet's resources, and change this consumption in order to reduce it.
- Responsible consumption is fundamental for changing things on a local and global level, and this also includes an ethical version.
- Verify if the products that we consume, for example cosmetics, contain whale derivatives, not visit dolphinariums or other places where they display species that do not survive in captivity, or if we do not know their origin, or avoid products like shark fin soup, once we know how it is obtained and the consequences it has for the species, are small actions that can bring about big changes.
- Also, all of these species that we have mentioned, contain very high levels of mercury, so they are potentially dangerous for human consumption.
In summary, being aware of what we consume, asking questions beyond the surface, and informing others, in order to be aware of how we can continue developing in a sustainable and balanced way with regard to the environment.