seaspiracy - a documentary film looking at the environmental impact of fishing





8/01/2021



The 2021 documentary film Seaspiracy by Ali Tabrizi, who has made a name for himself with his previous works Cowspiracy and What The Health, looks at the environmental impact that us humans have on our oceans. This includes the pollution of our oceans with plastics and – even more importantly – the destructive impact of commercial fishing. In fact, the documentary portrays commercial fisheries as the main driver of the destruction of our marine ecosystems and even goes so far as to claim that if we keep up current fishing practices, our oceans would effectively be empty by 2048.


While not all information and statistics that are presented in the film should be taken at face-value, it highlights topics that are not so often talked about when looking at the dangers to the survival of our planet’s ecosystems. I see the following main arguments being made in the film:


Overfishing


The film emphasizes that the amount of fish that we extract from the oceans is essentially emptying them of life, resulting in a huge loss of biodiversity. The main cause of this overfishing lies with the size of the fishing industry – there are billions and billions of dollars being made in this industry. It is even subsidized by many governments, so even if taxpayers stopped consuming fishing goods, the taxes they pay would help keep the industry alive.





Fish farms are often portrayed as a solution to conventional fishing, but are not seen as valid by the movie because of unnatural living conditions for the fish (source: kyma-sea.org)



Extinction of Species


As mentioned above, overfishing results in a huge loss of biodiversity. For large fish species, it is stated that more than 90 % of them have gone extinct as a result of overfishing. However, this does not only apply to fish, but equally to turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales and other sea creatures, including coral reefs that are completely demolished by destructive fishing practices such as trawling (for a closer look at why corals are essential to the survival of the ocean, you can check out the corresponding article How to save the world‘s dying coral reefs on planetrehab.org).





Decline of ocean species (source: meeresatlas.org)



Value of Environmental Certifications


The movie makes it a clear point to question the trustworthiness of environmental certifications for fish, such as the MSC label for Certified sustainable seafood or the Dolphin Safe label by the Earth Island Institute. As there is no actual way to control fishing boats out in the sea, and observers are often bribed, threatened or in some cases even killed, therefore a guarantee for the compliance with the label’s requirements cannot be given.


Plastics in the Ocean


The film also looks at the plastic pollution of our oceans. The non-biodegradable plastics that we use in all areas of our lives will very often find their way into the sea, where they are washed away by the ocean currents. Many of them will land in the so-called Great Pacific garbage patch – an area in the North Pacific Ocean where trash originating from countries in Asia, North America and South America accumulates and floats at various heights in the water. The movie makes a point to highlight the fact that almost half of those plastics in the Great Pacific garbage patch come from fishing boats, e. g. discarded fishing nets. Many sea creatures suffer a gruesome death due to being tangled up or consuming those plastics while swimming through this area.


The film is a great way to gain some insights into the problems arising from an industry that is not really on many people’s radars when thinking about environmental problems. Most people would probably think about the destruction of the rainforests, animal farms or coal power plants as the most destructive impacts that humans have on the environment. However, the film highlights the importance that the health of our oceans has on the health of our whole planet. The only real solution offered by the director is to stop eating fish completely. Certainly, this step is too much to expect to happen on a global level, as many people rely on fish as one of the biggest parts of their diet, especially when it comes to their protein intake. It is, nonetheless, a step that is much easier to realize for people in developed countries, and there are plenty of resources to use to make the move towards a plant-based diet, e. g. by checking out Planet Rehab’s social media channels, where there will be features of new plant-based recipes posted every month.


If you don’t want to take this step yet, there are plenty more opportunities to do something good for our oceans with Planet Rehab or by yourself! You can follow Planet Rehab’s lead and join ocean cleanup events such as Hands Across the Sand, where people worldwide meet and clean up their local beaches to prevent all that trash – and especially the plastics – from reaching the ocean. You can also Put the Bottle Down, another initiative by Planet Rehab to promote the switch from plastic bottles to reusable bottles. Lastly, as highlighted above, coral reefs are an integral part of the ecosystem of our oceans – and they are in grave danger. Luckily, there are many organizations and initiatives out there that dedicated themselves to restoring coral reefs through helping them grow on artificial coral farms or in laboratories. Planet Rehab is among those organizations and is constructing a saltwater pond, which will use a process called coral fragmentation to foster corals and enable them to grow up to 25 times faster than normal. These new corals can then be transferred and replanted in the ocean around Bocas del Toro in Panama. Check out planetrehab.org for more information on this and all the other projects that Planet Rehab is involved in.


Concluding with a last line of hope: There is something we can all do to remain hopeful that we can restore our fish populations, halt the destruction of our oceans, and realize that we as humans depend on the ocean for the survival of our species. Planet Rehab encourages all of you to start small with switching to more reusable options and incorporating at least one plant-based meal a week. Your one act will lead to a ripple effect that might just save us all.