Netflix’s new documentary ‘Seaspiracy’ has caused waves around the world by exposing the fishing industry for its role in destroying the ocean. In the past decade, environmental advocates and governments have been pushing for societies to go ‘plastic free’ in order to save the ocean. However, Seaspiracy reveals a much greater and veiled threat than plastic; commercial fishing. Consequently, many viewers finish the documentary believing that the only way to save the sea and its inhabitants, is to stop eating fish all together. I certainly felt this way after viewing it. But why are such drastic measures needed? Here are my key takeaways from Seaspiracy:
1. Dolphin safe food is not dolphin safe
A strong focus of this documentary is to investigate whether fish suppliers who claim to be dolphin safe, are actually dolphin safe. They reveal how over 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed in nets per year as a byproduct of fishing in what is called ‘bycatch’. Many individuals already aware of this side effect of fishing, may choose to buy fish products that are ‘dolphin safe’. According to the Earth Island Institute, the group that issue the dolphin safe labels, in order to be awarded the label a company must show that not one single dolphin is killed whilst fishing. However, when speaking to a representative, Seaspiracy reveals that it is impossible for the Earth Island Institute to actually guarantee that each can of tuna is dolphin safe. Firstly, because once the fishing boats are out to sea, it is of course impossible to truly know what they do, with observers rarely onboard and open to bribery. But more importantly, tuna companies pay the Earth Island Institute to licence these labels to them, so labels aren’t necessarily earned. If we can’t guarantee that each dolphin safe tuna can is in fact dolphin safe, then surely we lose all trust in the labels?
2. Reusable straws are not going to save the turtles
In the last decade there has been a strong push to go plastic free, with restaurants moving away from plastic straws in order to ‘save the turtles’. However, Seaspiracy shines light on a very important yet unspoken fact, that 46% of the Pacific garbage patch comes from fishing nets. These discarded nets are far more dangerous for wildlife than plastic straws, because they are designed to kill. The fishing industry polluting our ocean does of course make sense. Fishing boats involve a lot of waste, like ropes, nets, buoys and crates. But why is the plastic waste of commercial fishing boats not being talked about? Why do plastic free companies focus on boycotting straws and cups, but not on the bigger issue of boycotting fish? Seaspiracy provides an answer by revealing that companies like the Plastic pollution coalition are the same organisation as the earth island institute, who work with the fishing industry to sell more seafood, thus explaining their reluctance to encourage seafood reduction.
3. The human crisis
A lot of individuals watching Seaspiracy may not be persuaded to reduce their seafood consumption solely on the basis of ‘fish rights’ and cruelty. However, they may be compelled to give up fish as a result of the shocking violation of human rights involved in the commercial fishing industry. The use of slavery in the Thai fishing industry is one aspect of the documentary that shocked me the most. In order to reach the high demand for fish, certain commercial fishing groups would take young men, keep them at sea for several years, and expose them to unlawful treatment. Some survivors tell their story in this documentary, recounting memories of men being thrown overboard, being murdered, attempting suicide and being abused. The clear violation of human rights for workers in the Thai fishing industry is definitely a strong incentive to reduce fish consumption and demand.
4. We don’t really need to eat fish
Fish is advocated for as a healthy component of the human diet by providing protein, nutrients, and omega-3 oil. So wouldn’t cutting out fish be bad for us? Apparently, not. According to top biologists by eliminating fish from your diet, the only thing you would be missing out on, is high levels of mercury, toxins and PCBs that are carried by fish. The aquatic food chain is the most concentrated source of industrial pollution, hence the concept of clean and healthy fish has been washed away. The documentary reveals how ultimately, the negatives of eating fish outweigh the benefits to our health.
These are the four revelations in Seaspiracy that shocked me most and the ones I found most persuasive to cut out fish from my diet. However, the documentary uncovers a lot more information concerning the sea. It is a truly eye-opening and educational film, and I would recommend every single person to watch it.