Many of us spent countless summer hours frolicking at the sandy shores of our local beach. Perhaps you have memories of loading into your family car, weighted down with beach chairs, umbrellas and rafts stacked high to the sky for countless hours of relaxation, sand-castle building and exploration at the beach. I was born a fish out of water and despite a couple of hairy escapades with seemingly gigantic waves, I eagerly enjoyed being in the ocean from dawn to dusk. Unfortunately, my picturesque childhood memories of oceans are perhaps a bit unrealistic.
Living in Southern California, I've had the fortune of enjoying glorious early morning ocean swims with dolphins and seals. While out on these long swims, I'm less worried about marine life lurking below the surface and more concerned with more serious threats to our oceans. Our oceans have become our toilets, our landfills and our grocery stores. The toxins, garbage and other pollutants in our oceans are more imminent and realistic threats than sharks.
It's sad but true that we dump countless millions of pounds of trash and sewage into the seemingly endless deep blue, without acknowledging the serious environmental consequences of our actions. In fact, this summer you might be more apt to wade through countless plastic bags and other pieces of trash than a school of fish. And, in a seemingly contradictory practice, we mine the depths of our polluted oceans for food. We"re fishing and consuming unsustainable amounts of seafood using irresponsible practices. Much of the fish are caught using miles of metal chain nets that scoop up everything in their path, including marine mammals, turtles, coral and endangered fish. Bottom trawling is the mountain-top mining removal of our oceans, destroying everything in its path to feed our palates and economies.
Because of our behaviors, the United Nations reports that 70% of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted, which means that they if we continue with current unsustainable fishing quotas, we will be at the point of no return for many species. Tuna, commonly found in both the lacquer bento-boxes of high end restaurants and the generic plastic sushi trays in the refrigerator section at your local supermarket, is on the brink of no return. It's hard for many people, kids and adults alike to imagine life without tuna salad, tuna sashimi or tuna tartare, but it's a real possibility.
We've created the mess we're in. We have the answers to clean up our oceans and return fish stocks to healthy, sustainable numbers. You can learn more about over-fishing and sustainable seafood choices with Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Guide. These handy guides fold neatly into wallet size cards for you to carry around or you can go paper-less with the phone application. When you're out at your favorite restaurant, make sure you tell them that you prefer they serve only sustainable fish with the aquarium's friendly leave-behind cards. Anything else is unappetizing.
I look forward to a day when I'm swimming with schools of fish rather than schools of garbage. It's a realistic vision but one that requires all of us to be sensitive to our food choices and consumer habits. A world without fish is rather sad; let's brighten up World Oceans Day by doing our part to protect our seas.
Sarah"s Social Action Snapshot originally appeared on Takepart.com