The follow up to Cowspiracy recently dropped on Netflix and if you haven’t checked it out yet then you need to. The packed documentary takes you through all the ways our current relationship with the oceans and marine wildlife is corrupt, damaging and unsustainable.
Following Director Ali Tabrizi on his journey from picking up litter on beaches to interviewing supposed conservationists and evading the Thai police in relation to slave labour in the fishing industry, this saga is one that we all need to see for ourselves.
Here are 10 of the most horrific takeaways from the documentary for a recap of why it’s time to say sayonara to eating seafood.
A three-month oil spill is better for marine wildlife than one day’s commercial fishing.
Many of you will remember to tragic explosion that occurred in 2010 at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Branded as one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the US this event killed 11 employees and sent 206 million gallons of oil into the waters over the next three months.
Seaspiracy used this disaster to put the catastrophic damages caused by fishing on a daily basis into perspective. In an interview of Professor Callum Roberts we find out how the fishing industry currently destroys more marine wildlife everyday than the spill did over the three months it continued.
The documentary goes as far as stating that the spill actually benefitted the marine life, because fishing was banned due to the fears of oil contamination and the sea life was given a change to breathe.
The great pacific garbage patch consists of 50% fishing gear and 0.03% plastic straws…
Here we all are, on dry land, contemplating ways of eliminating single-use plastics (like straws) so they don’t end up in places like this.
Meanwhile, the commercial fishing industry continues to dump huge amounts of plastic fishing gear into our oceans. In fact, as Seaspiracy illuminated, roughly 50% of the notorious garbage patches consist of fishing gear.
The key takeaway from this is that single-use plastics from packaging and utensils are no good thing, yet there’s no point in us all focusing our attention on these when they account for a minuscule percentage of the problem in comparison to the impact caused by commercial fishing boats.
Our attention has been led by key activists in the industry away from the crux of the issue and towards a tiny factor affecting it.
Why focus on the utensils when the food they are being used to eat is contributing to the problem a whole lot more?
Dolphins are blamed at Taiji, Japan for the plummeting catches of bluefin tuna, leading to their pointless slaughter.
Horrific scenes from the documentary show Japanese fishermen butchering so many dolphins that the sea turns red.
If this slaughter isn’t already bad enough, Seaspiracy reveals their motivations for these appalling actions are unjust and ill-considered.
Japanese fishermen have seen lower and lower catches of the bluefin tuna in recent years and have come to blame the dolphins. What they don’t realise is the real reason their catches are nosediving is because they’ve basically fished the species out of existence.
So, all those dolphins are being butchered for no reasons whatsoever.
Bycatch amounts for almost 40% of the extraction of fish species from our seas.
I’m sure you’ve come across news stories about the thousands of dolphins washing up on European beaches every year?
Well, Seaspiracy reveals why this is.
In the documentary you learn that ‘bycatch’, marine life caught accidentally by fishing boats when they are seeking other sea creatures, accounts for 40% of all species removed from our seas, or 30 million tonnes of marine wildlife every year.
These creatures are often then slaughtered and cast back into the ocean. According to Seaspiracy, over 10,000 dolphins are killed on the west coast of France every year, something that’s been going on under the radar since the 1950s and been kept quiet by the French government.
The documentary goes further, showing how nearly 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises are murdered every year by the fishing industry after they are caught as by-catch.
This means that no matter the fish you eat (unless it’s farmed) it’s likely to have had the knock-on effect of killing these marvelous sea creatures.
Can sustainable fish really exist then? No, not unless we change our methods for catch them.
Some of us might be afraid of sharks, but the reality is we should be afraid of not having them.
Before we get into why we need sharks, let’s take a look at the stats.
An average of 10 people are killed each year by sharks. How many do we kill back?
Around 30,000 an hour…
Other than the incredible loss of life this stat represents, there was another key point raised in Seaspiracy: we need sharks! Why?
Sharks are notorious for being predators at the top of the food chain. And, when you remove the animal at the top of the chain the next layer down will overpopulate, briefly.
Then, as their numbers increase, they eat all the species in the next layer down, before their supply runs out and they die off. This cycle goes on and on until there’s just a fraction of the wildlife left.
So, as it turns out, we need sharks (and other apex predators) to maintain the food chains of our oceans and to prevent the pattern described above, also known as cascading ecological collapse.
Instead of protecting them what are we doing?
We are killing over 50 million sharks a year just from bycatch. Just to put this into perspective, no other industry kills as many animals or species, even on purpose.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
Bogus “dolphin friendly” labelling brings sustainable fish even further into question…
Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations from the documentary was an interview with a spokesperson for Dolphin Safe, an organistion whose purpose is to certify tuna and other fish as “free from dolphin catch”.
Revealed to us on screen is the total corruption and sham of this organisation. The spokesperson from Dolphin Safe went as far as admitting that any consumer of fish cannot guarantee their seafood is dolphin safe because there is no one to observe what the fishermen get up to out at sea.
At this point Tabrizi follows the trail of money to find that many of the plastic-free and sustainable fish certifications, like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), are supported by corporations like Unilever, who make a huge amount of profit each year from selling us all fish.
After this realisation, he tries to set up a meeting with MSC, with very little success. So, he turns up at their headquarters in London and is quickly asked to leave the premises by worried looking staff.
What’s the takeaway here? This industry is riddled with corruption and bogus organisations whose only purpose is to support and coverup the unethical actions of the fishing industry.
Unfortunately, in Today’s world, sustainable fish is clearly a myth.
How the fishing industry props up modern slave labour
One of the more difficult scenes to sit through in the film involves interviews with former fishing slaves who detail their horrific experiences of torture and exploitation when working on fishing boats.
The interviews are cut short when someone tipped off the Thai police and Tabrizi had to exit in a hurry, escaping only narrowly from the oncoming sirens.
This part of the film highlights the criminal links between the commercial fishing industry and the global drug and human trafficking rings.
And guess what our governments are doing in response?
They subsidize the fishing industry to the tune of $35 billion a year to allow these savages to continue ravaging our seas, as well as people’s lives.
Our role in the illegal fishing of Somali Pirates
It’s likely we’ve all heard of the Somali Pirates who frequently make headlines for their illegal fishing activities.
Seaspiracy uncovers the narrative of why these pirates became pirates in the first place.
As it turns out, Somali fishermen can no longer sustain a living from their local waters because of international fishing boats occupying their coastal seas and essentially stealing their fish.
As a result, the fishermen turn to piracy as their only means of maintaining their living; making it clear that we all play a role in them being forced to resort to illegal actions.
Thinking your farmed salmon is safe and sustainable?
Seaspiracy doesn’t let fish-farming off the hook either.
We learn that aqua farms, either in cages in our oceans or inland, force their fish into such packed conditions that they can hardly move. As a result, it is not irregular for these waters to become a toxic brew of feaces, antibiotics and growth enzymes, producing a huge amount of waste.
A further knock-off effect of this was displayed in the documentary by heartbreaking, secret footage captured of salmon being eaten alive by lice.
This shocking footage certainly made us never want to eat farmed fish again.
The oceans. Our greatest carbon sink. Destroyed forever?
As a team at Exploratree and Kinsume we’re all about climate change and doing our part to reverse our effects on the world around us, so that future generations can experience life as we know it on planet earth.
It was watching this next point unravel when our jaws actually hit the floor.
Seaspiracy makes an important link between the condition of our oceans and the climate crisis. As 92% of all carbon is stored in the seas and its plants, it’s vitally important we do all we can to protect it.
In the documentary the ecological holocaust caused by commercial fishing methods is highlighted, and it’s horrifying.
The method known as “bottom trawling”, where huge nets, large enough to fit a cathedral inside, are dragged along the bed of our seas, scraping away all life in its path and causing much of the sea plants and life to be wiped out.
In fact, the UN proposes that it is methods like this that cause up to 95% of global oceanic damage.
If we don’t stop fishermen from using this destructive method of fishing then we can only expect the climate crisis to get worse and worse.
It’s one thing to reduce our emissions, but to destroy the natural carbon sinks nature has gifted to us will only compound the issues we face and make for a speedier journey to a 6th mass extinction on planet earth.
Why act now?
This enlightening documentary certainly changed our perspectives on seafood forever:
The damage caused by the fishing industry on a daily basis being worse than a three-month oil spill.
The misleading focus of many activists on single-use plastics rather than the real crux of the issue – fishing materials.
The pointless slaughter of dolphins in Taiji.
The interconnectedness of all life in our seas relying on food chains that evolved over millennia, now being de-stabilised by our actions.
The impossibility of making an informed decision when trying to eat dolphin friendly fish.
The slave labour involved in the industry and our complicity in it all.
Even the acclaimed and “sustainable” fish farms have been painted in a negative light.
And to top it all off, our actions are accelerating the climate crisis in a way that could make our race against the clock an impossibility.
Perhaps one of the more depressing and horrifying stats from the documentary said that if we don’t make significant changes to our actions now, then the oceans will be empty of fish by 2048.
One of our best hopes for stopping this catastrophe is to introduce “no-fish” zones. Unfortunately, even though we’ve already got these in place, interviews from the documentary showed us that most of these zones are hardly protected at all.
The corruption, coverups and misleading organisations present in this industry certainly don’t paint a good picture for the future of sustainable fishing.
Probably better we all just stop. What are your thoughts?