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National Skip the Straw Day (Feb 23rd) serves as a reminder of the environmental impact of single-use plastics, particularly plastic straws. Efforts from policy to social media and grassroots campaigns spread around the world when a picture of a turtle went viral. But banning plastic straws doesn’t fully address the problem. Should we stop using them? Absolutely. Will it solve our entire pollution problem? No.

The Straw Dilemma:

Plastic straws have become emblematic of the broader issue of single-use plastics plaguing our oceans. According to environmental reports, millions of plastic straws end up in the oceans, posing a severe threat to marine life and ecosystems. Sea turtles, birds, and other marine creatures often mistake these straws for food or accidentally come in contact with them, leading to ingestion and harm.

National Skip the Straw Day:

National Skip the Straw Day encourages individuals and businesses to rethink the use of plastic straws. By opting for reusable alternatives or going straw-free altogether, we can collectively reduce the environmental burden caused by single-use plastics. However, the problem extends beyond just plastic straws. In fact, one industry has a larger impact than most when it comes to pollution in the ocean.

The Impact of Industrial Fishing on Ocean Pollution:

While plastic straws contribute to ocean pollution, it's crucial to recognize the larger contributors and the industrial fishing industry stands out. They’re not only adding to plastic pollution, but to loss of biodiversity and disruption to carbon sequestration.


Ghost Nets:

Abandoned or lost fishing gear, commonly known as "ghost nets," continue to drift in the oceans, trapping marine life indiscriminately. These nets pose a threat to sea creatures and also contribute to the accumulation of plastic waste.


Microplastics have continued to make headlines as broken-down plastics that end up everywhere. They end up in food, water, and soil. They’ve been found in our blood and placenta, posing considerations for massive health risks. Microplastics are plastics that have broken down into tiny pieces, less than five millimeters. 

They come from every source of plastic, including fishing gear. A study found that 75-86% of the floating plastic mass in the North Pacific Garbage Patch is abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear.  

Overfishing and Habitat Destruction:

Depletion of Fish Populations:

Overfishing occurs when fish are caught at a rate faster than they can reproduce. As a result, populations of targeted fish species dwindle, leading to a decline in their abundance. This depletion not only affects the targeted species but also has cascading effects throughout the food web. One example is Pacific Bluefin Tuna, where an assessment report in 2016 (8 years ago) found that only 3% of the population remains.

Unintended Bycatch:

Fishing operations often result in the unintentional capture of non-targeted species, known as bycatch. Bycatch includes various marine organisms, such as sea turtles, dolphins, and seabirds. Studies found that over 40% of all marine life caught is thrown overboard as bycatch, and much is killed by this process.

Ecosystem Disruption:

Fish play crucial roles in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. Overfishing disrupts these ecosystems by removing key species, leading to imbalances in predator-prey relationships and altering the composition of marine communities. This disruption can have far-reaching consequences, affecting everything from coral reefs to seafloor habitats.

Carbon Sequestration Disruption:

The oceans are the biggest carbon sink on the planet. Carbon sinks sequester carbon (take in carbon, think of this in the way that trees take in carbon). This means, about 93% of carbon is stored in the oceans. Overfishing and its detrimental effects on the ecosystem are threatening and reducing the ocean’s ability to sequester carbon. 

While National Skip the Straw Day prompts us to rethink our use of plastic straws, it also serves as an opportunity to address the broader issue of ocean pollution. We know that single-use plastics in general are harmful and something we can choose to avoid, but it’s also important to acknowledge other areas that we can’t control in our everyday lives and make our voices are heard.