Sylvia Earle is pretty much a rockstar in the world of marine biology and oceanography. And when Sylvia Earle says that there are not, in fact, “plenty of fish in the sea,” you listen.

Earle has devoted her life to exploring the depths of the ocean and learning about the complex organisms and species that call the ocean their home. Incidentally, she also does not eat seafood. Well, perhaps this choice is not so incidental. Rather it was the result of Earle’s realization that fish are, “creatures on their own terms.”

In an interview with The Guardian, Earle divulges her journey away from considering fish as “seafood.” By seeing the many fish and crustaceans that we might consider “food,” in their natural habitat, Earle began “seeing them as something other than pieces of meat on a plate, swimming in lemon slices and butter.”

To Earle, fish are not a food source, but rather, wildlife. The same way we would consider a squirrel or raccoon wildlife on land, fish are the wildlife of the sea, and should be treated accordingly. Earle explained to The Guardian, “We’re trying to support the taste for wildlife from the sea for a growing population, and that just simply doesn’t work.”

Meeting the demand for seafood for the world’s seven billion people puts an understandably HUGE strain on the ocean’s wildlife. And it is no surprise that the mass extraction of wildlife is causing a negative impact on the world’s ocean environments. In the span of Earle’s lifetime, she has seen the populations of fish commonly targeted for consumption (halibut, cod, tuna, swordfish, herring) drop by 90 percent. This is no small loss. These fish are far more valuable to the balance of the world’s ecosystem when they’re alive, rather than served on a sushi platter.

There are communities across the world who rely on seafood as a food source, because they don’t have the option to eat otherwise. But for nations, such as those in North America, we do have a choice and can make a positive difference for the ocean and its fish populations by choosing not to eat seafood. We’re all connected and recognizing the role fish play in our own existence is highly important.

“The oxygen that replenishes every breath you take comes from an ocean that is filled with life,” Earle explains,”It has developed over hundreds of millions of years. It has taken only a few decades [for humans] to disrupt and break those connections. The children of today will be really cross with us if we fail to act on what we know now.”

So, remember Earle and remember you do have a choice. It might seem small, but our planet is 70 percent ocean and can use all the help it can get! Click here for some awesome fish-free recipes.

Image source: TED