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It is estimated that up to 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that bloom in clusters throughout the ocean and are responsible for absorbing close to 50% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions via photosynthesis. By trapping the carbon and then sinking to the bottom of the ocean, planktons absorb about 2 billion tons of carbon annually. Increased rates of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have caused plankton blooms to turn the oceans more acidic and lowered the productivity of plankton by 9% globally. The carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is presently at 384 parts per million, up from 280 a century and a half ago. That number would quickly surpass 500 with the demise of planktons.
Only 1 percent of the ocean floor is coral reef. Yet coral reefs support up to 1 third of the ocean’s marine life; and close to 1 sixth of the world’s humans depend upon the reefs for their livelihood. When the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 450 to 500 parts per million the oceans will become too acidic to support corals.
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Of all the plastic ever made in the world, 100 percent is still in existence as it takes over 100 years to decompose. About 10 percent of plastic ever produced makes its way into the ocean; and therefore, every square mile of ocean contains an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic debris. In the Pacific Ocean, there is an island of plastic roughly 2 times the size of the United States of America. Plastic in the oceans is responsible for up to 1 million bird deaths, 100,000 marine mammal deaths, and an uncountable number of other sea creature deaths per year.
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Of ocean fish caught by commercial fisherman, about 25% is of unwanted size or species and therefore tossed back into the ocean. It is estimated that somewhere between 64 and 88 billion pounds of this by-catch is wasted every year. This by-catch amounts to enough to give every US American nearly 1 pound of fish per day.
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Sharks have been around for 400 million years, long before the dinosaurs. However, their populations have declined by 90% over the past 50 years. The act of shark finning, removing only the shark’s fins then throwing the body back into the ocean, is responsible for as many as 100 million shark deaths per year. Shark fins can sell for as much as 600 dollars each, averaging about 200 dollars per pound, and is therefore a 1 billion dollar per year industry. With the average weight per shark being around 80 pounds, and the average weight of the fins being about 2 pounds, there is as much as 7.8 billion pounds of dead and dying shark thrown into the ocean every year. Considering 30 percent of the shark to be edible meat, close to 6.5 million pounds of shark meat is wasted every day. That is enough meat to give every 1 of the average 4 million people who starve to death each year over 1.5 pounds of meat per day.
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In the 1970s, 40,000 metric tons of orange roughy were caught per year before realizing that the animals live up to as long as 150 years old and had already been fished to the brink of extinction. This fact aside, the US continues to import 19 million pounds of the fish each year.
Farmed salmon contain as much as 10 times more toxins than wild salmon and have about 60% more fat compared to their wild counterparts. As much as 3.5 pounds of wild fish are caught to feed 1 pound of farmed salmon—but work is being done on salmon DNA to adapt them to digest corn.
For every pound of shrimp caught, it is estimated that 4 lbs of other species are destroyed.
Lobsters can live up to 70 years and weigh as much as 30 lbs. But due to over-fishing, most lobsters are now caught at about 6 years old and 2 pounds.
Red Snapper can grow up to 35 pounds, but now is rarely found above 10 pounds.
Cod can grow up to 220 pounds, but now is rarely found above 20 pounds.
Swordfish can reach up to 1400 pounds, but now the average catch is about 100 pounds.
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