Today, April 3rd, marks World Aquatic Animal Day – an annual day dedicated to aquatic animals with the intent to raise global awareness about these often forgotten about animals! Aquatic animals include fish, marine mammals, aquatic birds, reptiles and even corals to name a few.
They all play a critical role in our ecosystem but are increasingly exposed to threats and changes to their habitats. This year’s theme is ‘The Impact of Human Activity on Aquatic Animals’. Shedding light on our impact on aquatic life is critical as millions are suffering each year at the hands of humans. We’ve picked out 3 of the biggest threats facing our marine ecosystem today:
Fishing is one of the most significant drivers of declines in ocean wildlife populations. In recent years, we have been catching fish faster than stocks can replenish, this is known as overfishing. Overfishing can impact entire ecosystems; many bigger aquatic mammals rely on smaller fish as their source of food leading to a loss of other important marine life. Additionally, millions of people globally rely on the fishing industry as a source of income, or fish as a source of food. When fish and other aquatic mammals disappear, so do jobs and access to fish as a food source, this drives further exploitation and keeps us in the overfishing cycle.
Bycatch is the accidental capture of non-targeted species when fishing. Dolphins, turtles and aquatic birds often fall victim to bycatch. This is due to thousands of miles worth of nets of lines being used in our oceans each day. Bycatch results in totally avoidable deaths – it is estimated that over 300,000 aquatic animals die each year from Bycatch – this includes endangered species such as a loggerhead, and leatherback turtles!
Every single day plastic is flowing in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. According to WWF, over 800 species are negatively impacted by our plastic waste. Plastic takes years and years to break down, once in our waterways it can cause suffocation, internal and external injuries, and entanglement. Research states that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish – this is something we need to change and fast!
These are just a few of many threats to our aquatic life, we would run through them all, but we’d be here all day, THAT’s how many threats there are. Don’t worry, there are a few ways that we can help to raise awareness for aquatic life and ensure that we protect their habitats now, and in the future. From saying no to single use plastic and reducing your fish consumption, there are small things we can implement each day to help our oceans thrive and fish stocks replenish.
This year, use the hashtag #WorldAquaticAnimalDay to spread awareness and be an advocate for aquatic animals.