Legendary Ocean Researcher Sylvia Earle Says We Should All Stop Eating Fish Before It Is Too Late

Sylvia Earle's plan to save the ocean

The legendary ocean researcher Sylvia Earle recently discussed why she believes everyone should stop eating fish. Earle says that we, as humans, have “lost — actually, we’ve taken, we’ve eaten — more than 90 percent of the big fish in the sea” and that we must do something about it now before it is too late.

In the TED talk, Earle says that commercialized fishing has taken a great toll on the ocean’s eco-system. Earle says that not only is ocean life suffering, but that human life will suffer as well. Earle says that people can witness the devastation of the ocean first hand by doing some searching on Google Earth.

“Using Google Earth you can witness trawlers — in China, the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico — shaking the foundation of our life support system, leaving plumes of death in their path. The next time you dine on sushi — or sashimi, or swordfish steak, or shrimp cocktail, whatever wildlife you happen to enjoy from the ocean — think of the real cost. For every pound that goes to market, more than 10 pounds, even 100 pounds, may be thrown away as bycatch. This is the consequence of not knowing that there are limits to what we can take out of the sea.”

Earle says we must do something to protect our oceans now, as the Earth’s success and the ocean’s success go hand in hand. Without a healthy ocean, it is noted that Earth doesn’t stand a chance of survival.

“No matter where on Earth you live. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by the sea. Over time, most of the planet’s organic carbon has been absorbed and stored there, mostly by microbes. The ocean drives climate and weather, stabilizes temperature, shapes Earth’s chemistry. Water from the sea forms clouds that return to the land and the seas as rain, sleet and snow, and provides home for about 97 percent of life in the world, maybe in the universe. No water, no life; no blue, no green.”

Therefore, with commercialized fishing killing off approximately 90 percent of the ocean’s big fish, the eco-system of the ocean is waning. In turn, the very stability of Earth is in question. One solution, according to Earle, is to give up fish consumption entirely. After giving her TED talk, Earle sat down with for an interview to discuss exactly why she gave up eating fish altogether after seeing the devastation in the sea first hand. Earle says that eating fish is a choice, not a necessity.

“Except for those living in coastal communities — or even inland if we’re talking freshwater species — for most people, eating fish is a choice, not a necessity. Yet wild fish, like wild birds, have a place in the natural ecosystem which outweighs their value as food. We have seen such a sharp decline in the fish that we consume in my lifetime that I personally choose not to eat any. In the end, it’s a choice.”

What do you think of Sylvia Earle’s suggestion that the human species should stop consuming fish as a means to save the ocean? Do you consume commercialized fish products?