Today is World Fisheries Day, an annual celebration to highlight the importance of maintaining the world’s fisheries. We’re causing lots of problems by overfishing and we need to make some changes, fast.

According to a recent United Nations report, more than two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested. More than one third are in a state of decline due to habitat loss, pollution, and global warming.

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In a statement on its website, the Global Research Development Center said, “The World Fisheries Day helps to highlight these problems, and moves towards finding solutions to the increasingly inter-connected problems we are facing, and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks.”

Maintaining a plant-based diet is the best way to help the planet with this issue. Pescetarians are applauded for sharing some of the vegetarian characteristics, such as not eating red meat and poultry. However, eliminating fish from your diet is crucial, especially amidst the many, interconnected effects from our fishing habits that activists bring attention to through World Fisheries Day.

Here are five reasons why pescetarians have it all wrong about eating fish.

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1. You don’t need fish for omega fats

Since fish and fish oil supplements do provide a high source of omega-3 DHA and EPA, people who don’t eat fish can be at risk for lower levels of DHA and EPA in their blood than people who do eat it. But contrary to popular belief, it is possible to maintain a vegan diet and get sufficient amounts of omega-3 fats without fish. Vegans can get DHA and EPA the same way that fish get it — from algae.

2. The world is dangerously overfishing

Yes, what you read above is correct. More than two-thirds of the world’s fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested. The bottom line is that we’re being too greedy. Throughout the world, we are contributing to ocean and coastal pollution from run-off, domestic and industrial activities carried out near the shores. “The impact of fishing over the centuries is far larger than anyone thought … i3n looking back 500 to 2,000 years ago, you get a real sense of the impacts of fishing and the cascading affects on marine ecosystems, some of which may be beyond recovery,” said Poul Holm, global chair of the History of Marine Animals Population project, as quoted in an article from The Brunei Times.

3. The danger of mercury

Leading scientists have warned the public about the risks posed by fish contaminated with mercury, especially to children and women of childbearing age. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, consumption of fish and other sea animals is the sole source of human exposure to methyl mercury. Because of pollution caused by human activity, fish accumulate mercury in their flesh and store it in their tissues. Mercury is known to be dangerous to humans. Eliminating the risk means stop eating fish. In the words of Dr. Jane M Hightower, “We found that if people eat fish, the mercury goes up. They stop eating fish, the mercury goes down. It’s that simple … It’s a documented poison. Wherever it’s seen, it’s been a problem.”

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4. The health benefits are overstated

We hear all about the health benefits of fish, and the vitamin industry of course touts these points so people will buy fish oil tablets. But did you know that there is no physiological need for humans to eat fish? As stated above, you can get sufficient omega fats via plant-based foods. In the words of Hope Bohanec, who has been an animal and environmental activist for over 20 years, “like all meat, fish has no magical property that can only be found in its flesh. Plants provide omega 3 fatty acids and protein without the saturated fat, cholesterol, possible mercury, heavy metals and destruction of the oceans that surely come with a meal of fish. Plants also provide a surplus of nutrients that are lacking in animal sources.”

5. Eating fish has already harmed our future

The demand to stop fishing and eating fish is so urgent because we’re running out of time to maintain our ocean ecosystem. Dire, lasting effects have already ruined part of our oceans, and global leaders have called on us to make some big changes. Last month, the United Nations General Assembly asked countries that have not yet done so to become a party to the Law of the Sea. This streamlines jurisdiction over national and international waters, as well as the seabed, which helps to maintain sustainable fisheries. Leaders and activists agree that we need to change the way we maintain our global fisheries to ensure sustainability of fish stocks throughout a healthy oceans ecosystem.

Image Source: Michael Saechang/Flickr