June is National Aquarium Month in the United States, a month which encourages the exploration and celebration of zoos and aquariums across the nation. Many issues with aquariums have been discussed recently in the news, things like sea-world have faced significant backlash about the treatment of their animals, notably the small tank spaces leading to many of their orca’s early deaths. However, maybe aquariums should be celebrated. If these animals are in tanks this means that at least they are not exposed to the horrific conditions that can be seen in our world’s oceans.
The facts about the state of our oceans is overwhelming. The state of our oceans, and the way that ocean wildlife is forced to live is horrible. Their ecosystem has been virtually destroyed by plastics which have been dumped into the water by humans. There has been plastic found in: marine environments that include segments of the pelagic biome, coastal habitats, deep sea sediments, as well as freshwater lakes. So basically, there is plastic in everywhere you can think of.
The animals in our oceans have been shown to consume pieces of these plastics, and especially the microplastic has worked its way up the food chain into our diet as humans. With the consumption of marine animals, such as tuna or haddock, it has been shown that humans are also ingesting small pieces of invisible plastic. In addition, microfibers have also been shown to have worked their way into tap water which is considered to be safe to drink. This shows that the state of our oceans is in dire condition, with the amount of plastic entering our oceans beginning to envelop our world, with many animals consuming plastic, human based products, as well as microplastics.
These have resulted due to the disposable ways in which we treat our lifestyles, with about 50% of plastic being used only once before being thrown away. [https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/] The fashion industry has also become increasingly disposable. With the increase in fast fashion, people are buying clothes at a cheaper price, and are therefore disposing of them significantly quicker. Is this a coincidence that the two are correlated? I think not.
Just a fraction of plastic waste from disposable items that will enter the oceans everyday.
The Hudson River in New York dumps 300 million clothing fibers into the Atlantic Ocean each day, according to a recent study in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. These fibers come from aging clothes, rinsed out with the laundry and are then expelled into the environment. Approximately half of the fibers expulsed are plastic, while the remainder are spun from natural materials like cotton or wool. Invisible to the naked eye, these fibers can cause health problems for animals and humans.
So although there may be many issues with aquariums, at least the animals in these tanks are not forced to live in environments which are polluted to the same extent that the oceans are. They are kept in conditions which are correct for their species; not conditions such as the polluted waters, increasingly warm temperatures, or destroyed habitat which are found in the oceans today.