Contributor: Alex Smith

Eating fish may be a healthy and desirable form of lean protein for your diet. However, various fish populations have been dwindling, or moving away from their usual patterns of behaviour. The proliferation of plastics in the seas and oceans has created monstrosities like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The situation is so dire, that the UN even considered bestowing the mass of rubbish its own flag, just to increase awareness about its existence.

Compliments of extensive greenhouse gas emissions, man-made pollution, and overfishing, you may have to reconsider the type of fish you choose for your dinner. Thanks to the fragility of our planet’s ecosystem, you may even uncover microplastics lurking in your fish. What to do; when you want to consume fish for their health benefits?

Shrinking Fish and Rapidly Increasing Climate Change

If you still want to consume fish, but are unsure of your options after learning about the impact that climate change has presented, there are solutions. You can choose to lessen the amount of fish you consume, or keep wild caught fish to a minimum. Eating farm-raised fish is also another option. The biggest concern for fish populations is increasingly warming temperatures and less oxygen in our oceans.

According to scientists at the University of British Columbia, they believe that a fish’s body grows faster than its gills. Warmer water encourages fish to speed up their metabolism, and contributes to fish size decrease, and an inability for fish to take in sufficient oxygen for optimal development. According to Director of Science William Cheung, fish sizes decreased around 20 to 30 percent for every 1-degree increase in water temperature.

Fish like whiting, herring and haddock in the North Sea have been documented for significant shrinkage in size, thanks to lowered oxygen levels in their habitat. Fish like tuna may be at risk for shrinkage too, because of how much oxygen they demand to function. Luckily for tuna, they seem to be avoiding areas where the water is not well for their health.

Certain species of fish are also dealing with being overfished, despite dwindling numbers, and vying for optimal waters. But, there still are fish that are more readily available. Many of you enjoy consuming fish for lower blood pressure, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, and protein. And, fish provides support for the brain and body, and also contains a significant amount of vitamin D.

Eating Fish for Your Health

Fish is a welcome addition for dinner, because it is fairly inexpensive and simple to prepare. Salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout contain a high amount of fat-based nutrients, which equate to enhanced flavours and health benefits. Due to their fat content, they are also considered some of the healthiest fish to eat.

Fish like herring and salmon contain the highest amount of vitamin D. Instead of eating fish, you can take a teaspoonful or two of cod liver oil daily, and enjoy a high amount of vitamin D. Regularly making fish a part of your diet has been linked to lower levels of depression, vision protection, and protection against brain decline from ageing. Eating at least one single serving of fish weekly, has been connected to lowered risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

Fish Served with a Side of Plastic?

According to an article in The Guardian, an estimated 12.7m metric tons of plastic find their way into the oceans annually. Both poorly controlled industrial waste, and microfibers that are shed from clothing end up being consumed by sea life. Many fish mistake plastic bits as food, which are also covered with algae or bacteria.

It is not only disturbing that the plastics that are being consumed by fish are often discovered in their gullet. Even worse, the chemicals in the plastics are also absorbed in the tissues of a fish, and can accumulate into dangerous levels of toxicity. According to one study in 2015 utilising fish purchased in California and Indonesia, 1 in 4 fish had evidence of consuming plastic.

Hazardous toxins to humans and wildlife include PCBs, dioxins, and mercury. Studies are continually ongoing as to how much impact eating plastic-contaminated fish has on human beings. And, there are still no universal regulations in place for plastic and plastic pollution impact on fish and ocean life.

Contaminants from plastics can cause disruptions in the life cycle of fish, making mating and spawning difficult, and can even cause hormonal and sex problems. Some fish have been influenced to switch from male to female, due to exposure of plastics. Also, warming water temperatures can throw fish off their balance. Fish endure forced change patterns of migration, suffer growth difficulties, or are unable to adapt quickly enough and have reduced numbers as a result.

What Can You Do to Improve Ocean Health for Fish and Humans?

If you are concerned about the dire straits of our oceans, and the impact it has on the health of fish and other marine life, there are a few things you can do.

  • Use reusable bags for your groceries and avoid using plastic bags
  • Choose to take your beverages to-go in a reusable bottle and avoid plastic straws.
  • Reduce using disposable razors made using plastics
  • Choose cloth diapers or nappies over disposable options
  • Switch your face wash and opt for a salt or sugar scrub instead, to avoid plastic microbeads

Share with others what you know about plastics, fish and marine life health, and the impact we can all make by making small daily changes to our lifestyle habits. Opt to use reusable materials, buy second-hand, and reduce demand for plastic based items, which are readily thrown away, help tons.

Bio: Alex Smith enjoys writing about health niche and other topics of interest. When she’s not found drinking a cup of chamomile tea, or whipping up some flash fiction, she enjoys crocheting. You can follow her various writing and musings via @gritnvinegar on Twitter.


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