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Straw ghosts

Desmond Bellamy, PETA Australia

The war on straws seems to be going well, with McDonald’s announcing that they will phase out the use of plastic straws by 2020.

But, if you are concerned with keeping animals in the ocean safe, don’t just look to your drinking straw – look to your dinner plate. In fact, eating fish does far more harm to our oceans than sipping your drink through a straw ever will.

Abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear – otherwise known as ‘ghost gear’ – is a problem that spells catastrophe for marine life. At least 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear are added to our oceans every year, killing and mutilating millions of marine animals – including endangered whales, seals and turtles. Swallowing plastic remnants from ghost gear leads to malnutrition, digestive blockages and death.

In the Pacific Ocean there is a floating patch of garbage twice the size of France and weighing roughly 88,000 tonnes. While this enormous area, like our oceans at large, is full of plastic, scientists estimate that 46 per cent of the mass of the garbage patch comes from fishing nets alone. And other types of fishing gear account for much of the rest.

So, while many people are stocking up on cloth shopping bags and signing petitions to ban single-use plastic straws to save the oceans, those who fish (or eat fish) need to re-examine their personal choices too. It’s simple: less fishing means less fishing gear abandoned.

You can’t eat fish and call yourself an environmentalist.


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