Seaspiracy: what happens next?
Key takeaways from the Netflix documentary film.
Seaspiracy, made by the same team behind the award-winning 2014 film Cowspiracy, is a documentary film investigating the idea of sustainable fishing, the aquaculture industry and its damaging effects on our planet.
The film delves a little deeper, too, as filmmakers Ali and Lucy Tabrizi find themselves uncovering the politics, corruption and deceit surrounding the fishing industry. An eye opening documentary to say the least!
Here’s a summary of the main points and criticisms so far – the topic has generated a huge amount of discussion online, which we’ve sifted through to bring you the best bits.
Bycatch is a huge problem.
- Bycatch occurs when fish or other marine species are unintentionally caught in wide cast nets when another type of fish is trying to be caught. Most of these catches are thrown back into the sea but many die anyway due to lack of oxygen.
- 50 million sharks (much-maligned creatures that are essential to the preservation of our oceans) are caught annually as bycatch.
- Up to 10,000 dolphins are caught off the Atlantic coast of France every year alone as bycatch, according to Sea Shepherd, a nonprofit marine conservation group.
Sustainable fish certifications are not all they seem...
- The film highlights that Dolphin Safe and Marine Stewardship Council labelling (which supposedly provide assurance to conscious consumers buying fish products) isn’t always guaranteed.
- When questioned on the validity of these claims, Mark J Palmer from the Earth Island Institute (the organisation that manages the dolphin-safe label) said: “Nope. Nobody can. Once you’re out there in the ocean, how do you know what they’re doing? We have observers on board... observers can be bribed.”
Fish farms that are supposedly eco friendly are hiding things from you, too.
- Some species of farmed fish are fed wild-caught fish, leading one expert in the documentary to call fish farming “wild fishing in disguise”.
- Farmed salmon are not naturally pink, either. While wild salmon get their colour by eating shrimp and krill - farmed salmon are fed red pigmented compounds called carotenoids. Without this, they would be grey in colour!
Fishing nets are the biggest source of plastic pollution
- Forget straws, plastic supermarket bags, and bottles. Although rarely discussed, fishing nets and gear are the biggest culprit of plastic pollution – with over 46% of the great pacific “rubbish patch” made out of them.
‘Blood Shrimp’ is a huge concern
- Reports of slave labour in Thailand being used to catch shrimp and prawns were exposed during the film, with one former fisherman interviewed in the documentary described how he was abused and threatened at gunpoint, alleging that the dead bodies of others who were killed were kept in freezers on board their ship.
If you're anything like us, you might have found everything so far pretty shocking. It’s also worth noting that documentaries often cherry pick facts and information to manipulate public opinion. After all, it’s TV! It’s got to be worth watching. With this in mind - here’s a few of the common criticisms that surfaced after Seaspiracy started streaming:
- Condemning the ‘Dolphin safe’ label as a conspiracy to benefit fishing industries could be damaging, as David Phillips, the director of the IMMP has said “The Dolphin Safe tuna programme is responsible for the largest decline in dolphin deaths by tuna fishing vessels in history. Dolphin-kill levels have been reduced by more than 95%, preventing the indiscriminate slaughter of more than 100,000 dolphins every year.”
- A spokesperson for the Marine Stewardship Council said that while the film drew attention to “known problems” in the fishing industry, it included “misleading claims” including that there is no such thing as sustainable fishing and that MSC certification was not credible. “Some of the known problems that the film highlights – bycatch, overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems – are precisely the issues the MSC certification process is designed to address”, a spokesperson said.
Overall, after taking in the facts with a critical eye, it’s clear the current levels of fish consumption are not sustainable. The effects of depleted fish stocks on the environment are real, and regardless of how fast it’s happening - it’s a good idea to make informed decisions as a consumer.
The film has had a huge impact already, with celebs such as Bryan Adams and Kourtney Kardashian to our co-founder Adam – who has committed to becoming vegetarian!
In his own words:
"You can't unlearn something like that. I had no idea about the negative impact consuming fish was having – or the extent of that impact. I believe we have an individual responsibility as citizens of Earth to do our bit. Change is difficult, but we'll get there!"
Have you seen Seaspiracy? What did you think of it?
Let us know in the comments.