I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle on this one for a little while as the subject is quite controversial. Seaspiracy is a new Netflix documentary (trailer below), that examines the global fishing industry. Now this may not sound controversial but through it’s narrative, it challenges sustainable fishing and whether it is possible, shows how human actions are depleting the oceans of not just fish but also turtles and cetaceans, as well as documenting widespread environmental destruction caused by fishing and slavery within the fishing industry. As you can imagine, the documentary itself isn’t exactly easy to watch, especially if you’re someone that loves your fish and chips. Having been released a couple of weeks ago, it certainly has divided opinion but now I think it is time to address the elephant in the room.
There has been a large backlash against the director of Seaspiracy for the portrayal of the fishing industry and the inaccuracy of the science contained within. My biggest qualm is that the documentary was not called Conspira-sea, I mean it was right there! A number of journalists have already worked hard to debunk Seaspiracy, including the BBC and Inverse to name a few. If you visit the links I’ve provided, you’ll see that whilst some elements of Seaspiracy are wrong or outdated, some of them are sound. If a documentary is made by someone who isn’t a marine biologist, about the dangers of overfishing, climate change and our extremely efficient techniques of denuding the ocean of fish, it’s going to be a little biased. What did people expect? To me, the biggest issue with Seaspiracy is the fact that it cherry-picks research to fit it’s narrative and often relies on newspaper headlines/stories to fill in the gaps. I’d much rather there be a trail of peer-reviewed and referenced research from beginning to end, that isn’t 20 or more years old. As technology advances, we’re learning more than ever about our oceans.
It’s clear to me that the main reason why there seems to be so much controversy is that Seaspiracy provides a mirror, and people don’t like the reflection they are seeing. When you buy produce at a supermarket, do you know where it has come from? Seaspiracy graphically shows the world the processes in place that put fish on our shelves and the destruction that it causes. It also carries a message that everyone should stop eating fish if they want to protect the oceans. Whilst this may be true (I’ll let you decide), telling people that they need to change their lifestyle never goes down well. Another problem is the final scene showing people of the Faroe Islands hunting pilot whales, something that has taken place for centuries. Whilst it may seem barbaric (and in my mind it is), Seaspiracy consciously neglects to inform us why this takes place. In a nut shell, it is extremely hard to grow produce on the Faroe Islands and most of their food is imported. Have you ever tried growing food on a volcanic wasteland? Whilst the pilot whales may suffer a bloody death, no part of their body is wasted because the Faroese can’t afford it to.
With the controversy and notoriety that Seaspiracy comes with, I hope that it will lead to genuine positive change with people thinking twice before buying fish or other seafood products. I also hope that it will lead to people caring more about our oceans, I often feel that because they are out of sight – that they are out of mind. If you’ve seen Seaspiracy please let me know what your thoughts were down in the comments below.
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