Provides a roadmap to restore health of this critical resource
By Debbie Parsons, Los Gatos Plant-Based Advocates
Many of us are drawn to the ocean and fascinated by it. We visit beautiful beaches. We love dolphins, sea turtles, and whales. We appreciate how precious the ocean is and want it to remain healthy. Sadly, our ocean is in a desperate fight for survival.
This fight is revealed in the eye-opening Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. The film, produced by Ali Tabrizi, identifies the commercial fishing industry as a leading culprit in an imminent underwater disaster. While disheartening at times, Seaspiracy is highly informative and has a positive message—we have the power to save our ocean.
Tabrizi begins by tackling a common misconception: that the ocean’s vastness ensures a safe, resilient environment for the teeming life within. Most of us have heard about “overfishing,” yet there are plenty of fish in our supermarkets. So what’s the problem? Seaspiracy reveals that, if we continue to haul our current rate of 2.7 trillion fish from the ocean each year, we will lose most fish species by 2048.
What about “farm-raised” fish? Isn’t that an easy solution to overfishing? Not so fast, says Tabrizi. Farmed fish are jam-packed into netted cages, in water polluted by their own waste, akin to “factory farming” of land animals. Seaspiracy puts a spotlight on salmon farms in Scotland, which incredibly produce as much organic waste as the entire human population of Scotland each year. Moreover, farmed fish are often fed with wild fish, contributing to declining fish populations in the ocean.
Seaspiracy highlights another commercial fishing practice called “bottom trawling.” This involves dragging giant trawling nets across the bottom of the ocean, destroying 3.9 billion acres of seabed each year. This wipes out coral reefs, causes complete collapse of marine ecosystems, and greatly impedes our fight against climate change, since the ocean is the Earth’s biggest carbon sink. Seaspiracy compares bottom trawling to bulldozing pristine Amazon rainforest.
Tragically, many sea animals never intended for a dinner plate get caught up and die painful deaths in the fishing industry’s gigantic nets. The inadvertently caught sea animals, called bycatch, include over 300,000 whales and dolphins, 50 million sharks and 250,000 turtles in US waters alone. Seaspiracy helps consumers understand the true cost in sea life of the fillet or shrimp on their plate.
Seaspiracy won’t let us hide behind “sustainable” fishing labels either. According to Tabrizi, the ocean is too vast for authorities to verify that sustainable fishing practices are being used. Tabrizi illustrates the point by highlighting an Iceland fishery whose pricey products bore a sustainability “checkmark.” However, approximately 269 harbor porpoises, 900 seals and 5000 seabirds were killed at this "sustainable" fishery in just one month.
Social justice issues caused by the commercial fishing industry are brought to light as well. There is heartbreaking footage of fishing communities in Africa starving due to overfishing by giant boats from faraway countries, Viewers learn about enslavement of people by shrimp boat owners. We learn, ironically, that the fishing industry receives $35 billion in annual subsidies while the UN estimates that it would cost about $30 billion to combat world hunger.
Despite the harsh reality portrayed, Seaspiracy does offer hope for the future. Tabrizi reminds us that marine ecosystems have the ability to bounce back very quickly. The prospect for rewilding our ocean is exciting and attainable.
Naturally, there is controversy about Seaspiracy, and pushback in the media by the commercial fishing industry. This confirms the age-old adage that there are at least two sides to every story, especially when profits are involved. Either way, Seaspiracy has started a critical conversation about the future of our ocean. Watch Seaspiracy to be in on this critical conversation. At the very least, you will be an informed consumer who is aware of the true cost of seafood. The first step in healing our ocean is to understand the enormity of the problem by educating ourselves.