The raving and ranting about Seaspiracy compelled me to open a Netflix account in order to view it. The $9 fee was money well spent! The documentary has been hitting Netflix’s top 10 list in countries around the world since its March 24th release, with high marks from viewer ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. Produced by the makers of Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy lives up to the hype. In a sensitive yet potent way, the documentary takes viewers around the world to expose the immense atrocities and environmental destruction perpetrated by the industrial fishing industry, and the corruption that enables it to continue, even by organizations that purport to protect aquatic animals.
Ali Tabrizi (Disrupt Studios) explains how his concern with plastic pollution led him to question the Plastic Pollution Coalition as to why they were not urging people to curtail their fish consumption, since fishing gear comprised such a great percentage of marine plastic pollution. His inquiry is met with denial, dissmissal, and a request that the camera be turned off.
Ali and his wife, cinematographer Lucy Tabrizi, travel to Taiji, Japan, where a Sea Shepherd spokesperson explains that the capture and assault on dolphins there is primarily because they are viewed as competitors to the fishing industry, and is a reaction to the industry’s overfishing there. They go on to visit Asian shark fin markets, noting that most sharks are actually caught incidentally as “bycatch” of the fishing industry, along with countless other animals who are thrown back dead or dying.
After repeat efforts to interview Marine Stewardship Council, which awards the use of it’s logo for seafood companies that meet certification standards, are ignored, the Tabrizis arrive at its office but are asked to leave.
Speaking with a spokesperson for the “Dolphin Safe” tuna label, Ali asks: “Can you guarantee that every can is dolphin safe?”
A: “Nope, nobody can. You know, once you’re out there in the ocean how do you know what they’re doing? We have observers out at sea, the observers can be bribed.”
Q: “Are your observers out to sea often?”
A: “On a regular basis, no.”
A spokesperson for Oceana, which promotes “sustainable fishing,” acknowledges: “There is not a definition of sustainability, as of whole, for fisheries. The consumer can’t access right now properly what is sustainable, what is not. The consumer can’t make an informed decision right now.”
“They have certified fisheries that produce astonishing levels of bycatch. And those are ignored because the level of kill is considered to be sustainable in itself. But that’s not what a consumer is looking for. They want to know that no marine mammals have been killed, no sea birds have been slaughtered to put that fish on their plate. The label on the tin isn’t worth a damn in some cases,” states Cullum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation at the University of Exeter.
Commenting on such organizations, Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd explains: “Basically what they’re trying to do is to appeal to the big tent. They want the people who eat fish to support them…A lot of these groups aren’t interested in solving the problem, they’re interested in exploiting the problem.”
The billions spent subsidizing the industry, illegal fishing, and human slavery in the fishing industry are examined, as is the devastating impact that the plunder of fisheries off Africa for foreign consumers has on people there who are genuinely dependent on fish for food, many of who instead resort to piracy or killing other wildlife (“bush meat”).
The horrific cruelty of fish farming is shown, and how, rather than being a solution to overfishing it is a huge part of the problem, with many of the wild-caught fishes ground up for use as food for the captive fishes. The disastrous impacts that shrimp and prawn farming have on mangroves is also shown.
“[Fishes] have the capacity to feel on a level that [we] almost can’t imagine…Those that say it doesn’t matter what you do to a fish because they can’t feel anything, or that they, their consciousness, they can’t relate to pain, or they can’t sense danger in the future, well, they haven’t really observed fish. I think it’s a justification for doing dasterdly things to innocent creatures. It’s the only explanation I can think of for treating fish with such a barbaric attitude,” states Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue and former chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“And while governments are not prepared to take action, and while the industry is basically unregulated, the only ethical thing to do is to stop eating fish,” concludes environmentalist George Monbiot.
Embarrassed by the publicity, some organizations and individuals featured in the documentary are now furiously backpedaling or disavowing it. The seafood industry, and seafood industry apologists including academics wed to the concept of sustainable fishing, are accusing Seaspiracy of inaccuracies and distortions with inaccuracies and distortions of their own. Cullum Roberts counters: “My colleagues may rue the statistics, but the basic thrust of it is we are doing a huge amount of damage to the ocean and that’s true. At some point you run out. Whether it’s 2048 or 2079, the question is: ‘Is the trajectory in the wrong direction or the right direction?’”
What industry apologists tend to fail to take into account is that fish are sentient, as science has shown. They suffer fear and pain and deserve respect and consideration. Even if fishing/fish farming could be sustainable they will never be humane. Yes, there are some people and other animals who genuinely need to eat fish as a matter of survival. That is all the more reason for those of us who don’t need to eat fish to not eat them. All of the nutrients we need in order to thrive can be obtained more healthfully, humanely and environmentally responsibly from plant sources. Needlessly harming animal for food, or for anything else, is animal abuse.
Seaspiracy exposes some of the worst abuses being perpetrated on animals all over the world. It can be hard to watch at times but it’s very valuable watching in order to be able to accurately discuss the cultural watershed it is, and to better understand the plight of aquatic animals and how we can help them. They desperately need all of the help we can give them. It’s a must-see documentary!