Fresh Fish Anyone?

Have you watched the streaming Seaspiracy documentary about the global fishing industries yet? Having fact-checked Ali Tabrizi’s Netflix documentary you may want to fact-check the label on your Friday fish this week …   20/4/2021  3 Documentaries to Watch Instead of ‘Seaspiracy’ – Marine biologists aren’t impressed with Netflix’s hit documentary on ocean conservation. They recommended some other films on the subject for us       by Svati Kirsten Narula

Netflix’s new documentary Seaspiracy has a single call to action for its viewers: stop eating fish. The film hops from one issue facing the ocean to another—showcasing dolphin slaughter, shark finning, industrial bycatch, plastic waste, and ocean acidification—but concludes that each is a symptom of overfishing (or less damaging than it). Claiming that industrial fishing is doing more harm to the ocean than anything else, the film’s director and star, Ali Tabrizi, makes the case that well-meaning citizens must cease consuming fish completely in order to stop the destruction. To many marine scientists, however, this is a gross oversimplification. 

The film’s most controversial claim is that there’s no such thing as sustainable fishing. “This is like saying that sustainable agriculture doesn’t exist,” fisheries biologist Bryce D. Stewart told Inverse. The Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies some seafood with a label indicating it was sustainably harvested—a label that Seaspiracy calls out as “meaningless”—has since put out a statement standing by its practices: “Research shows that fish stocks that are well-managed and sustainable, are also more productive in the long-term, meaning there is more seafood for our growing global population, which is set to reach 10 billion by 2050,” it reads in part. 

According to The Guardian, individuals from the International Marine Mammal Project, Lancaster University, and Oceana all say their portrayals in the film misrepresented their stances on topics like dolphin-safe tuna and sustainable fishing. Seaspiracy also claims that at our current rate of overfishing, the oceans could be empty of fish by 2048. That claim is based on a 2006 study that, according to its own author, is too outdated to be taken seriously today.

Writing for Vox, fisheries expert Daniel Pauly says: “Seaspiracy does more harm than good. It takes the very serious issue of the devastating impact of industrial fisheries on life in the ocean and then undermines it with an avalanche of falsehoods.” Pauly argues that the documentary misplaces the blame for overfishing and employs anti-Asian stereotypes, among other issues. 

Casper Ohm, a marine biologist based in the UK, takes a similar view of the film. “Few truths are thrown into a sea of oversimplified interpretations—and worse, misinformation—on a broad topic that encompasses a series of complex, intersectional issues,” he says. “Nonscientific viewers may not be able to differentiate between facts and falsehoods.” 

We asked Ohm and some other experts to recommend alternative documentaries that you can stream online if you want to learn more about the health of the ocean.

‘The End of the Line’ Recommended by: Casper Ohm, founder of the Water Pollution Institute, and Cherilyn Chin, former aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The 2009 documentary The End of the Line starts with a story about the 1993 collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery due to overfishing, which devastated Newfoundland’s economy. It goes on to show that the same story could soon play out for other fish species across the globe, highlighting the bluefin tuna fishery in particular. “Man has been hunting fish in the sea since he discovered they were there,” says actor Ted Danson, who narrates the documentary, toward the beginning. The film thoroughly explores the different angles of this hunt across time and geography.

The End of the Line is intellectually rigorous and airs perspectives from multiple fisheries scientists, including Daniel Pauly, even when they disagree. One thing all the sources agree on is that the world has too many fishing boats chasing too few fish. However, unlike Seaspiracy, the filmmakers behind The End of the Line believe that there is such a thing as sustainable fishing, and they endorse consumer labeling efforts, such as the Marine Stewardship Council’s certification. 

Ultimately, this film has three requests for its audience: buy only sustainable seafood, tell politicians to enforce fishing laws, and support the creation of marine protected areas. The End of the Line “was the first documentary to comprehensively look at the worldwide fishing industry,” says Chin. 

Watch it on Vimeo.

‘Racing Extinction’  Recommended by: Cherilyn Chin and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, cofounder of the Ocean Collectiv and the Urban Ocean Lab

Racing Extinction, which came out in 2015, offers a wide-ranging look at species that are at risk of dying out, with a particular focus on marine creatures. It’s directed by Louie Psihoyos, CEO of the Oceanic Preservation Society, who also directed the documentary The Cove, about dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. Racing Extinction opens with Psihoyos helming a sting operation at a restaurant in Santa Monica, California, that serves whale meat. It homes in on the illegal shark-fin trade, with a heartbreaking shot of a nurse shark sinking to the sea floor after a fisherman catches it, cuts its fins off, and then throws it back into the sea, sentencing it to a slow death by immobility. But between those disturbing scenes, there’s also plenty of footage of Psihoyos and his colleagues diving with blue whales, dolphins, and whale sharks, which will surely enhance your appreciation for the watery parts of our world. 

Though the filmmakers clearly have a penchant for using undercover sting operations to catch wildlife traffickers, they appear to engage respectfully with Indigenous people, such as manta ray fishermen in Lamaka, Indonesia. (The village of Lamaka has since begun a “community transition” away from manta ray hunting and toward manta ray tourism, with the help of the filmmakers and several NGOs.)

Racing Extinction also contends that human consumption of land-based meat and dairy products is a major force behind the methane emissions driving climate change and that it threatens the ocean more than overfishing does.

Watch it on Amazon Prime.

‘Chasing Coral’ Recommended by: Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Cherilyn Chin 

Chasing Coral, released on Netflix in 2017, puts the spotlight on coral-reef habitats across the planet, from Hawaii to Australia. This film teaches viewers that the ocean’s entire ecosystem depends on the health of coral reefs—but thanks to ocean acidification wrought by global warming, those reefs aren’t doing so well. Chin describes the film as “a comprehensive and touching look at coral bleaching.” Coral bleaching is the term for what happens when coral reefs are exposed to warmer water—they turn white. Bleaching can either be a temporary or permanent death for these creatures, which provide a home to vast communities of sea life. 

Director Jeff Orlowski was on a mission to map the world’s coral reefs, Google Street View-style, when he realized that he also wanted to document major coral-bleaching events to show people the impact of climate change. A significant portion of the film is devoted to the difficulties of underwater time-lapse recording, which might be a bit too in the weeds for some viewers, but the importance of those time lapses is obvious: nothing can match the impact of seeing colorful coral reefs blanch over days or weeks when the water heats up. 

Like The End of the Line and Racing ExtinctionChasing Coral acknowledges and respects that many communities around the globe depend on fishing to survive, which means they depend on coral reefs. The film closes with a stark message: “If we don’t address the warming of the planet, we will lose this ecosystem, and millions of people will suffer.” 

Watch it on Netflix.

Bonus Recommendation

“If readers are really interested in the complex issues surrounding the oceans and fishing, it is hard to glean the full story from documentaries,” says Marin Hawk, a fisheries biologist at the Marine Stewardship Council. “A book I recommend is Four Fish, by Paul Greenberg, which really is a classic in fisheries and explains some of the higher-level issues the sector is facing.” 24/3/2021 ‘Seaspiracy’ Review: Got Any Scandals? Go Fish. – A Netflix documentary takes viewers on a voyage around the world rooting out the many causes of ocean life decimation, but its rhetorical methods distract from its revelations. By Natalia Winkelman

The turbulent documentary “Seaspiracy,” streaming on Netflix, takes the form of an intercontinental odyssey filled with discoveries. The director Ali Tabrizi serves as our guide and impassioned narrator, and as he voyages from Asia to Europe and back, he strives to frame each revelation as more shocking than the last. What begins as a study of ocean debris becomes a tour of the numerous agents of marine destruction and corruption, from the millions of sharks killed as incidental catch to the conservation organizations that Tabrizi suggests are motivated by profits. But the film’s rhetorical style often feels like a cheap imitation of hard-hitting investigative journalism. “My only option was to follow the money,” Tabrizi declares, after successfully entrapping one organization’s representatives with leading questions.   20/4/2021  Industrial fishing is destroying marine ecosystems, and the communities that depend on them – Approximately 35 per cent of longline catch is non-target species, and many vessels engage in illegal activities such as shark-finning, with impacts that ripple through the whole ecosystem  by Rita Issa    9/4/2021  Is Netflix’s Seaspiracy film right about fishing damaging oceans?   –  BBC Reality Check team 1/4/2021 Seaspiracy the movie was chilling – but what can I do now? Ellie Hooper 1/4/2021 Seaspiracy: Why the Netflix documentary everyone is talking about will change the way you think about eating fish for ever – Its message is making people give up eating fish, but critics argue that Netflix hit Seaspiracy doesn’t stand up to a fact check. Is the documentary worth watching – and is it accurate?  By Alex Fletcher 31/3/2021 Seaspiracy: Netflix documentary accused of misrepresentation by participants
NGOs and experts quoted in film say it contains ‘misleading’ claims, erroneous statistics and out-of-context interviews.
Ali Tabrizi, the director of Seaspiracy, defended the film and denied claims participants’ comments were taken out of context. – A Netflix documentary about the impact of commercial fishing has attracted celebrity endorsements and plaudits from fans with its damning picture of the harm the industry does to ocean life. But NGOs, sustainability labels and experts quoted in Seaspiracy have accused the film-makers of making “misleading claims”, using out-of-context interviews and erroneous statistics. 2/4/2021 The science of Seaspiracy by Emily De Sousa

The talk of the ocean world is Seaspiracy, a Netflix Original film produced by the same team responsible for Cowspiracy and What the Health. Like those two previous films, Seaspiracy is full of misinformation and has been panned by actual experts. Others have already addressed the racist and xenophobic undertones of the film, the egregious amount of time spent trying to weasel non-profit organizations into “gotcha” moments, the misrepresentation of their interview guests, and the general lack of integrity by the filmmakers to telling true stories.

This post will focus on addressing the misinformation presented in the film. Though I share the filmmaker’s passion for the oceans, our integrity and commitment to telling the truth are very different. 2/4/2021 If Seaspiracy persuades you to stop eating fish in order to save the environment, you are completely missing the point – Going plant-based only because you’ve realised it will benefit you is not veganism – it’s speciesism by Chas Newkey-Burden

For so long, the fishing industry has been overlooked in discussions about cruelty to animals. We hear more about the seven billion land animals killed for food each year. But now Seaspiracy has put fishing and seafood directly on the frontline. The Netflix documentary has blown the lid off the environmental impact of commercial fishing. The issues it raises with this cruel, predatory racket echo what we see in the farming and slaughter of land animals.

It shows that labels such as “dolphin-safe” tuna are meaningless because, as the very organisation that manages this authentication admits, people can be bribed into turning a blind eye to what really happens at sea. …

Seaspiracy also showed that parts of the fishing industry are using slave labour to catch shrimps and prawns. Again, this is mirrored on land. Studies show that workers in meat slaughterhouses often live in desperate circumstances and criminal groups have been trafficking foreign nationals to work in UK slaughterhouses.

As George Monbiot points out in Seaspiracy, we have an image of the fishing industry “deeply implanted in our minds from childhood” of a “little red boat, chugging along across a sparkling sea with Captain Birdseye at the wheel, with his white beard and his twinkly blue eyes”. …

Some viewers are saying they will go vegan after watching Seaspiracy and realising how environmentally damaging commercial fishing is. As a vegan, I’m pleased. But the argument that we should stop eating fish for the sake of the environment is a human-centric one that ignores the true victims here – the fish themselves.

Fishermen will merrily tell you that fish don’t feel pain but this has been disproved. Professor Donald Broom, a scientific advisor to the government, said: “The scientific literature is quite clear. Anatomically, physiologically and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.” A European Union scientific panel has also found that fish do experience pain and fear.

So imagine the pain and fear fish suffer when they get caught in trawl nets and are slowly crushed to death under the weight of other fish, their eyes ballooning out in their final hours. If they survive that, they are either left to slowly suffocate or they are disemboweled with a gutting knife while still conscious.

Fish on factory farms are cut across the gills and left to bleed to death, electrocuted in a water bath, or smashed over the head with a blunt instrument. The fish industry’s twinkly-eyed marketing doesn’t show you things like that.

At the heart of all animal suffering is speciesism: the idea that some species have more moral rights than others. Fish are generally at the bottom of this scale because small creatures that live in the water somehow seem less important than big creatures that live on the land, like we do.

Morally, what is the difference between killing a dolphin or a tuna? Why do people campaign on behalf of the dolphins and whales at Seaworld but continue to eat cod and chips? Why boast that you’ve stopped using plastic straws to save fish when you won’t stop eating fish to save fish?

In Seaspiracy, presenter Ali Tabrizi says: “If dolphins and whales die, the ocean dies. If the oceans die, so do we.” If Seaspiracy makes people go plant-based, that’s great. But going plant-based only because you’ve realised it will benefit you is not veganism – it’s speciesism. … “

Dr Gil Carvalho factchecking Seaspiracy

Seaspiracy debunked. Let’s fact-check the new Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. The controversies and evidence surrounding Netflix’s Seapiracy. …

The 1st big question seaspiracy raises is about single-use plastics. Straws, plastic bags, packaging. Main source of plastic pollution is the fishing industry with discarded nets? so the solution is to just eat less fish? Is fishing the main source of plastic, not straws? 80% of plastic in the ocean is from land source e.g. plastic bags. in the remaining 20%, commercial fishing is the major contributor. So the fishing industry does not cause most of the plastic pollution in the ocean but does cause a significant chunk. seaspiracy oversimplifies things a bit but they have a point that fishing is a significant source of plastic

seaspiracy tells us shark populations have sharply declined. shark finning + bycatch. the movie is right about the alarming decline in sharks. Seaspiracy tells us its not just sharks. bycatch affects Porpoises, dolphins, whales, seals, seabirds – trawling. next seaspiracy introduces us to Sea-sheppard. later seaspiracy circles back for more on Sea-sheppard – seaspiracy uncomfortable interviews with organization reps – next seaspiracy touches on farmed fish. which avoids bycatch maybe they can innovate and farms can become ‘greener’? – seaspiracy talks about “sustainable” fishing – finally, seaspiracy looks at the health effects of eating fish. pollutants etc. mercury, heavy metals fish and health. fish consumption largely linked to health benefits – eating fish a couple times a week (or not) are both compatible with health – for those who don’t eat fish: omega3s? EPA and DHA? Seaspiracy explains algae are effective. supplements as effective as fish oil or fish itself, any of the 3 will get you those omega3s – seaspiracy shines a light on problems with the fishing industry e.g. overfishing


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