Photo Credit: Netflix
On 24 March, a Netflix documentary captivated viewers across the globe. The week it was released, it was talked about like no other documentary in a long time.
Seapiracy raised concerns and opened the eyes of many about the truth of commercial fishing, and the harm humans are doing to the oceans.
This documentary is not easy to watch, but I think it is necessary. Ali Tabrizi has done a great job documenting the horrific truth that is overfishing, the exploitation of sea creatures. He also draws our attention to the sheer quantity of plastic being found in our oceans.
I had always known that we are a greater danger to sharks than they are to us, but not to the extent that I witnessed on Seaspiracy: “People should not be afraid of having sharks in the ocean; they should be afraid of not having sharks in the ocean.” These two lines are so captivating and powerful, underlining that the key issues are humanity’s negative interaction with the ocean, and our lack of understanding of the consequences of this.
It was so striking to me when director Tabrizi stated that there are more particles of plastic in the ocean than there are stars in the sky. This is almost incomprehensible and illustrates the tragedies of commercial fishing and pollution that humans are inflicting on the planet. The fishing industry is unsustainable and so far from pristine.
Ali Tabrizi took necessary action by documenting behind the scenes of the seafood industry, including the hunting of sea creatures for sale (such as sharks being hunted for their fins and being thrown back in the ocean alive.) When Tabrizi is refused the right to film or interviewees leave because they are not allowed to show what is being done, it suggests to us that these actions are immoral because they cannot confidently display what is happening.
Seaspiracy is a necessary documentary, but it can be frustrating to think that this has been going on for years. Still, it’s better late than never to have the truth so publicly on display.
This documentary can spark a lot of anger in people and has already been a catalyst for more activism on the matter. With the current environmental situation, our oceans and seas are in need of urgent help and this is not something that can be dismissed. What can we learn from this? What is important to note from Seaspiracy is that commercial fishing is not sustainable in its current form, meaning the high demand for seafood (in commercial fishing) needs to go. An interviewee from Seaspiracy, Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, states:
“Well, first of all, there’s no such thing. It’s impossible. There is no such thing as a sustainable fishery. There is just not enough fish to justify that.”
Watson further notes that it’s vital for consumers to understand “greenwashing”. To put it simply, greenwashing is the act of marketing or portraying something as being eco-friendly, when it is not truly beneficial or friendly to the environment.
Our seafood consumption is another important part of the conversation when it comes to “saving our oceans”. We hear plenty about keeping plastic out of our oceans and saving the turtles – both of which are important, but we never talk about reducing our actual consumption of sea life to a sustainable level. Ali’s research highlights how this industry refuses to say stop eating seafood, rather you get the greenwashed marketing tagline of “sustainable seafood”.
During this documentary, it made me feel uneasy witnessing many stakeholders avoid questions regarding fishing and sustainability, even though it was expected. Watching it documented, an industry that cares more for profit than the well-being of the planet does not sit right with me, and it shouldn’t. This is what makes this documentary so difficult to watch: it is the truth. Seaspiracy highlights the fact that the truth can, in fact, be ugly, and the truth of the matter in Seaspiracy is hideous.
This documentary also shines a spotlight on the lives of humans, who work in terrible conditions and put their lives at risk for the fishing industry: “An estimated 24,000 workers die every year.” Illegal fishing also costs the lives of people.
Shockingly, avoiding our own consumption of fish does not fully free us from contributing to the fishing industry, because our taxpayers’ money also subsidises them, meaning it is not fully avoidable. This demonstrates how big this is and what governments also are a party to.
If you haven’t seen it already, give Seaspiracy a watch. It is challenging, but it is important to see what’s going on in the world and what we have been sheltered from. I will not lie: this documentary hurts the soul, but hope should not be lost. There is so much to this industry that has been hidden for too long, including the stripping of locals from their own food resources, dangerous working conditions, and the overfishing of our sea creatures. If commercial fishing is put on a sustainable footing, then our oceans and seas will thrive once again.