Skip to content

Fish ’n’ Plastic: Ocean Pollution with a Side of Hard-hitting Truth

Ocean pollution became a hot topic within the last decade, but it’s not the Funko Pop–selling kind. The severity of this concern is addressed by climate analysts and activists alike, yet with buzzwords and misinformation crowding up search engines; it is difficult to know the true health of the oceans and the factors that may diminish it.

As a solution, we can look at the Ocean Health Index (OHI) for relevant metrics. This is essentially a scoring system for evaluating the contributions of a given region to ocean preservation. Every region is awarded an overall score and subscores across various categories, each with 100 as the ideal rating. These are all based on existing data, forecasts, and assessments completed by a collective of international groups at municipal and global scales. Overall, this system is rooted in the idea that “healthy ocean[s] sustainably [deliver] a range of benefits to people now and in the future.”

Currently, Canada is sitting at an overall score of 69, the average across the world, with Tourism and Recreation (36 points) weighing us down—and Coastal Protection (92 points) boosting that score. That means we’re doing great in preserving habitats against natural disasters. Well done, eh!

Still, take these numbers with a grain of salt. They are relative and fair comparisons among regions are difficult: living and social conditions differ across the globe. For example, Macquarie Island, ranked first in the OHI, has a population mostly consisting of permanent penguin residents and occasional human researchers (the perfect company to keep in my opinion!).

So, how does Canada, a human-run country, protect the oceans?

It achieves this through legislation that mitigates environmental damage caused by hazardous waste disposal. These include the Environmental Management Act, which takes effect here in BC. As explained by Environment and Climate Change (an organization that informs the public about environmental change), having legislation helps “support and promote the management, protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment.” 

To put that into simpler terms (as most of us are not Elle Woods), having those laws allows the ruling body to mitigate, postpone, or stop any traceable actions that directly harm the environment. Fairly straightforward, right? 

Sorry to disappoint, but no. Current legislation does not cover the more nuanced types of pollution that we’re struggling with, like the products of our bad habits being dumped into the ocean (that Shein haul is not worth it!). Among the worst offenders are plastic pollutants. These are responsible for “80% of all marine pollution” (according to a UNESCO factsheet), despite having been invented only a little over a century ago.

The problem with plastic and what we can do about it

It’s been estimated that 10 billion (yes, with a “b”) kilograms of plastic are being dumped into the oceans every year, damaging habitats persistently as most of it never fully degrades. At this rate, all that plastic will take over most of the room in the ocean. How can fish stand a chance against a material designed to outlive us all? 

Plastic pollution also affects us all at the individual level. Our province, being located on the shore of the Pacific, depends on healthy marine life. The fishing industry is a substantial part of our economy, bringing in as much as $1.17 billion in 2016. Apart from being economically dependent on fishing, we are also its end users and ultimately consume what is put into the oceans. While to each their own, I do not think that many would enjoy their fish and chips seasoned with plastic. 

As difficult as it can be, change is needed. With legislation evolving to keep up with the increased plastic waste and poor disposal habits, it’s on us as individuals to take charge of our communities’ fate. Admittedly, though, most of us (myself included) cannot function without plastic. And as BCIT students, we are often short on free time to dedicate to non-academic causes.

But fear not, my scholar. With small changes, you can greatly reduce your plastic use in the long term.

Here are just a few ideas that can fit into your daily routine:

1. Bring your own cup

Who doesn’t love a fancy artisanal drink as a treat from time to time? Plenty of chain and independent cafés offer discounts or reward points when you bring your own cup. That means you can keep your pockets fed while saving the environment (like the superhero you are). 

Also, if you were influenced by TikTok into buying a Stanley cup, you might as well put it to good use! If only the Vancouver Canucks could get a cup of their own…

2. Make conscious purchases

In the age of fast fashion, synthetic fabrics such as polyester are becoming more common. As tempting as those low prices can be, they come at a much higher cost by polluting our water, and even air, with microplastics (barely visible materials that can break off from the fabrics during wash cycles). But making well-thought-out purchases will not only limit your waste: it also ensures that your belongings will be used for a long time instead of being donated to a thrift store within a few months. 

And by changing your buying habits now, you can prevent our pretty Coastal Protection score of 92 from plummeting in the next few years.

3. Give plastic a run for its money 

As mentioned before, plastic will not degrade during our lifetime, yet it is one of the most common materials for single-use items. Reuse it where you can or, if that’s not possible, make sure to correctly sort it for recycling. Currently, only 9% of all plastic disposed of in Canada gets recycled, and this can be attributed to improper sorting in the first place.

To make the best use and reuse of plastic, you can follow the waste disposal instructions in disposal areas when you are on campus. BCIT has been dedicated to preventing waste from ending up in landfills through initiatives like this. And at home, you can follow Waste Management’s “Recycling 101” guide (, an excellent resource that also delves into common recycling misconceptions. 

If you are looking for a more active role or a summer activity, you can join or even lead a shoreline clean-up, collecting washed-up waste. A great organization is Ocean Wise. In just the first few months of 2023, over 100 shoreline clean-ups took place through it, with more than 1600 kilograms of litter collected. Please visit for more information about the cause and how to get involved.


“The Age of Plastic: From Parkesine to Pollution.” Science Museum, October 11, 2019.  

Anderson, Sage. “The Tiktok-Famous Stanley Cup Has Turned Staying Hydrated into a Trend.” Rolling Stone, February 17, 2023. 

“British Columbia Seafood Industry – Year in Review 2016.” Government of British Columbia, 2017. 

“Environmental Protection Act.” Environment and Climate Change. Government of the Northwest Territories, 2023. 

Fava, Marta. “Plastic Pollution in the Ocean: Data, Facts, Consequences.” Ocean Literacy Portal. UNESCO, May 9, 2022. 

“Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector, 2016 Edition.” Government of British Columbia, November 2018.

“Global Scores – Canada.” Ocean Health Index, February 14, 2023. 

“Global Scores – Macquarie Island.” Ocean Health Index, February 14, 2023. 

“Goal: Coastal Protection.” Ocean Health Index, February 14, 2023. 

“Laws & Rules – Air, Land, Water.” Province of British Columbia, 2023. 

Marsh, Jane. “5 Benefits of Reducing Plastic Waste.” Environment Co, January 18, 2021. 

“Methodology Overview.” Methodology Overview | OHI, February 14, 2023. 

Murray, Lorraine. “Macquarie Island.” Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., February 16, 2012. 

“Ocean Health Index.” Ocean Health Index, February 14, 2023. 

“Plastic Waste and Pollution Reduction.” Government of Canada, March 1, 2023. 

“Recycling & Waste.” British Columbia Institute of Technology, 2023. 

“Shoreline Cleanup.” Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup, 2023. 

“Ten Tips to Reduce Your Plastic Waste.” WWF. Accessed April 10, 2023. 

“Understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.” Government of Canada, May 19, 2022. 

Wolfe, Isobella. “What to Do about Microfibres in Clothing.” Good On You, October 29, 2021.